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Voters Doubt America Is Safer Than It Was Pre-9/11

Monday, March 23, 2015

Voters are less pessimistic about U.S. efforts in fighting terrorism globally, but confidence that the homeland is safer than it was before 9/11 is at a multi-year low.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 33% of Likely U.S. Voters believe the United States and its allies are winning the War on Terror. That’s up from last month’s low of 19% and is the highest level of confidence measured since April of last year. 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 had been trending steadily down for the past two years prior to the latest survey.

But just as many (33%) think the terrorists are winning the war, although that's down slightly from last month’s high of 37%. Twenty-seven percent (27%) say neither side is winning. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

However, only 34% believe the United States today is safer than it was before the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. That’s down from 39% last year and is the lowest level of confidence measured since May 2010. Nearly half (48%) don’t think America is safer, while 18% aren’t sure.

Forty-seven percent (47%) of voters now consider terrorist attacks a bigger threat to the United States than economic or military attacks, down just two points from October’s high of 49%. Thirty-nine percent (39%) think economic threats are a bigger threat to America, up only slightly from the previous survey but still below findings the prior two years. Just five percent (5%) regard military attacks from other nations as the bigger threat to this country.

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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on March 18-19, 2015 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 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 tend to believe the radical Islamic State group (ISIS) is winning the war in Iraq but are much less supportive of putting U.S. combat troops in the fight than they were six weeks ago.

The older the voter, the more likely he or she is to think the terrorists hold the advantage in the war on terrorism. Older voters also feel more strongly that terrorist attacks pose a greater threat than economic or traditional military attacks.

Fifty-one percent (51%) of Republicans think the terrorists are winning the War on Terror, but nearly as many Democrats (47%) think the United States and its allies are winning. Voters not affiliated with either political party are more closely divided but tend to believe the terrorists or neither side is winning the fight.

Veterans or those who have family members serving in the U.S. military feel more strongly than other voters that the terrorists hold the advantage when it comes to the War on Terror.

Forty-one percent (41%) of voters who believe terrorist attacks pose the biggest threat to the nation believe the terrorists are winning the War on Terror, compared to 35% who say military attacks are the biggest threat and just 27% who say that of economic threats.

Voters agree with President Obama that America is not at war with Islam but are far less convinced that the economic measures promoted at last month’s White House summit on violent extremism will help protect this country.

The president said in an interview earlier this year that the media overhypes the threat of terrorism and downplays the 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.

Following the massacre in early January in the Parisian office of the satirical magazine Charlie, many Americans believe a similar attack on those critical of Islam will happen in this country in the next year.

Seventy-five percent (75%) agree that Islamic religious leaders need to do more to emphasize the peaceful beliefs of their faith, and 52% believe Islam as practiced today encourages violence more than most other religions.

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

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