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War on Terror Update

More Voters Than Ever Say Terrorists Are Winning

Monday, February 23, 2015

Even as a radical Islamic group announces its intention to attack American shopping malls, voters paint an increasingly dismal picture of U.S. efforts to fight terrorism.

Just 19% of Likely U.S. Voters now believe the United States and its allies are winning the War on Terror, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. This finding’s down from last month’s previous low of 23% and is the lowest finding in nearly 11 years of regular tracking. Confidence in U.S. anti-terrorism efforts hit a high of 62% in February 2009 just after President Obama’s inauguration, then steadily deteriorated until the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011 when it rebounded into the 50s. But it has been trending steadily down for the past two years.

Thirty-seven percent (37%) think the terrorists are winning the war, up from 33% in January, and the highest level of pessimism since the September 11, 2001 attacks. Thirty-three percent (33%) say neither side is winning, while 11% are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Voters continue to think the government needs to focus more on the home front: 43% think it doesn't pay enough attention to the potential threat from domestic Islamic terrorism, although that's down slightly from 47% in October. Just 15% think the government focuses too much on this threat. Only 29% believe the current amount of attention to the potential domestic threat is about right.

Eighty-six percent (86%) agree, however, that radical Islamic terrorism is a threat to the United States

Thirty-five percent (35%) think the United States is too involved in the Middle East, while 29% think it is not involved enough. Twenty-one percent (21%) say the level of involvement is about right. Fifteen percent (15%) are not sure. Voters have long expressed little enthusiasm for getting more involved in Middle East politics, but they are slightly less likely to think this involvement hurts both the region and the United States.

But just over half (52%) of voters now think the United States should send combat troops back to Iraq as part of an international coalition to fight the radical Islamic group ISIS.

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The survey of 800 Likely Voters was conducted on February 20-21, 2015 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3.5 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Voters say Obama has not been vocal enough in criticizing the atrocities by ISIS and believe overwhelmingly that those involved in these acts should be tried for war crimes.

Following ISIS' public beheadings of 21 Egyptian Christians last week, 61% agree most Christians living in the Islamic world are treated unfairly because of their religious faith, but that’s down from 66% last August. Unchanged is the 11% who think most Christians are treated fairly in the Muslim world. Twenty-eight percent (28%) are undecided.

By comparison, just 20% of voters believe most American Muslims living in this country are treated unfairly because of their religion and ethnicity. That’s unchanged from August despite the murder of three Muslim students in North Carolina earlier this month. Police are still trying to determine if the alleged killer was motivated by a hatred of Muslims. Fifty-seven percent (57%) think most Muslims living in America are not treated unfairly because of their faith, but 24% are not sure.

Thirty-nine percent (39%) believe most Muslims worldwide view the United States as an enemy. Thirty-seven percent (37%) think most Americans view Muslims worldwide as an enemy.

Republicans feel much more strongly than Democrats and voters not affiliated with either major party that the terrorists are winning the War on Terror and that the U.S. government does not focus enough on the potential threat of domestic Islamic terrorism. GOP voters also feel more strongly that the United States is not involved enough in the Middle East and that Christians are treated unfairly in that region because of their faith.

Voters under 40 feel more strongly than their elders that the United States is too involved in the Middle East and that the government focuses too much on the threat of domestic Islamic terrorism. Thirty-eight percent (38%) of these younger voters think Muslims in this country are treated unfairly because of their faith, a view held by just 12% of those 40 and older. Most of those under 40 agree most Christians in the Islamic world are treated unfairly because of their religion, but they don't believe it quite as strongly as their elders do.

Older voters are twice as likely as those under 40 to believe the terrorists are winning the War on Terror.

Forty-five percent (45%) of the Political Class believe the United States and its allies are winning the War on Terror, but only 15% of Mainstream voters agree. 

The president who has gone out of his way not to link anti-U.S. terrorist efforts to Islam drew sharp criticism for comments he made during the National Prayer Breakfast equating atrocities by ISIS with past sins of Christianity, but a plurality of voters agrees with his sentiments. 

However, 75% believe Islamic religious leaders need to do more to emphasize the peaceful beliefs of their faith, and 52% say Islam as practiced today encourages violence more than most other religions 

The president hosted a summit at the White House this week to discuss ways to counter terrorism worldwide. But in a recent interview, he said the media overhypes the threat of terrorism and downplays the greater long-term threat of climate change and epidemic diseases. Voters by far, however, see terrorism as the bigger long-term threat to the United States.

Rasmussen Reports will release new findings on what voters think about the White House summit on extremism later this morning.

Additional information from this survey and a full demographic breakdown are available to Platinum Members only.

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