Poll: Americans Less Worried About a 9/11 Repeat

September 11 Terrorist Attack on Pentagon
A helicopter flies over the Pentagon in Washington, 9/11, as smoke billows over the building. The Pentagon took a direct, devastating hit from an aircraft and the enduring symbols of American power were evacuated as a terrorist attack quickly spread fear and chaos in the nation's capital. (AP Images/Heesoon Yim)

In the final week leading up to the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and the events that changed America 10 years ago, USA Today and Gallup have conducted an exclusive poll looking at Americans' thoughts on terrorism and how they've changed over the last decade.

The proportion of Americans who say the government should take steps to protect its citizens against terrorism—even if it means violating civil liberties—has dropped almost in half since the days after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

In January 2002, 47 percent of Americans said they were willing to have the government violate some of their basic civil liberties in order to prevent more acts of terrorism. Asked the same question last month, only 25 percent answered the same way.

In a striking contrast with the national mood 10 years ago, fewer Americans now think that “the Muslim world considers itself at war with the U.S.” In March 2002, 71 percent agreed with that statement. Nine months later that number had dropped to 60 percent, and today it's down to 51 percent.

Faith in the government's anti-terrorism capacity has dropped. Asked less than a week after 9/11 how much confidence they had in the government to protect citizens from terrorist attacks, 41 percent of respondents said “a great deal.” By March 2002, 24 percent agreed with that assessment. Now, only 22 percent do.

Who's winning the war on terrorism? Not much has changed in how Americans answer that question. A month after the 9/11 attacks, 42 percent said the U.S. and its allies were winning, and by the following January that rose to 66 percent. By April 2002, the percentage of Americans who felt their nation was winning the terror war fell into the minority. They have constituted a majority only three times since—twice immediately after the Iraq invasion in early 2003 and once in January 2004, after Saddam Hussein's capture.

In June 2007—the last time until this year that USA Today and Gallup asked who was winning—only 29 percent said the U.S. was winning. Asked the same question last month, respondents agreeing that the U.S. and its allies were winning the terror war had climbed back up to 42 percent—the same as 10 years ago.

People seem less worried about the imminent likelihood of a terrorist attack today. Only 38 percent consider one somewhat or very likely “over the next several weeks,” compared to 66 percent 10 days after 9/11. A series of mysterious anthrax attacks, which eventually killed five people, drove that up to 85 percent the following month. In the 18 times the question has been asked since late 2003, the highest “likely” response was May 2 this year, one day after bin Laden was killed. The highest ever was the 85 percent in the anthrax attack period.

Do you feel America has turned more toward God or further away from Christ since 9/11?

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