January 11th, 2010
01:53 PM ET
4 years ago

CNN Poll: Majority confident Obama can handle terrorism

Washington (CNN) – In the wake of the Christmas day attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner, most Americans remain confident that the Obama administration can protect the country from terrorism, according to a new national poll.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday also indicates that the vast majority of Americans believe that full-body scanners should be used in airports across the country.

Nearly two-thirds of people questioned in the poll say they have a moderate or great deal of confidence in the administration to protect the public from future terrorist attacks, up 2 points from August. Thirty-five percent say they have not much or no confidence at all, down 1 point from August.

A number of Republicans have criticized the president over his handling of the attempted bombing of Northwest flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit. But according to the survey, 57 percent approve of the way President Barack Obama's responded, with 39 percent disapproving of how he handled the situation.

"Only a third of Republicans have a positive view of Obama on this matter, but the key for the administration is the 55 percent of independents who approve of how the president responded to the incident on Christmas Day," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.


The poll also indicates no increase in overall concerns about terrorism. "In October, about a third said they were worried that a family member would become a victim of terrorism, and that number is unchanged in the wake of the attempted attack in December," Holland notes.
"The public seems to react calmly to individual incidents, possibly because most Americans believe that the government cannot prevent every single terrorist plot from occurring."

Six in 10 say the terrorists will always find a way to launch an attack, no matter what the government does, he adds - identical to the number who felt that way during the Bush administration.

The poll indicates that a majority of the public, 57 percent, think suspect Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, should be tried in military court and not the civilian criminal courts that are currently handling this case. Forty-two percent back handling this case in civilian court.

According to the survey, Americans are also split on whether heads should roll because as a result of the attempted bombing of the airliner. Forty-six percent of people questioned feel that top officials in the federal agencies responsible for handling the issue of terrorism should be fired, with 51 percent saying no.

The poll indicates that nearly eight in 10 believe that full-body scanners should be used in U.S. airports, and only 15 percent say they would refuse to go through one of the new machines at an airport, if asked to do so.

"Most Americans don't see full-body scanners as a health risk, and more than seven in 10 say they would be unconcerned if asked to go through one at an airport. Women in particular seem to prefer the idea of a full-body scanner to being frisked by a security guard, even when the question makes clear that the guard doing the manual pat-down would also be a woman."

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted Friday through Sunday, with 1,021 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report


Filed under: CNN poll • President Obama • Terrorism
soundoff (172 Responses)
  1. Lori in Texas

    I wonder how different the poll would be if they only asked people who fly regularly (more than once in a lifetime) about the body scanners? We have no idea how much radiation is being absorbed during each exposure. What are the long term effects for frequent fliers? Perhaps the TSA agents should be wearing dosimeters around that equipment to verify the actual dosages of radiation. The American public needs more health effect info on these machines before we can make an informed decision to expose ourselves. After all, we have to sign off for a dental or bone x-rays and look at the required safety protocols used there.

    January 11, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  2. Annie

    I have more confidence in Obama and his administration than I ever had in Bush/Cheney.........Obama handles things on a more intelligent level and Bush/Cheney solution to terrorisom was to shoot from the hip, make threats that turned the World against us and used Scare and Fear tactics to keep American's afraid..................had they been more dilligent in their efforts in Afganistan maybe we would be in better shape financially with out all that expense in Iraq...... not to forget the thousands of our military men and womens lives that could have been spared and instead of them being buried in graves though out this country they could be with their families. Every Republican that supported Bush/Cheney should hang your heads in SHAME.......

    January 11, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  3. Red by Choice

    Not this American. His lack of insight is only exceeded by his lack of experience.

    Stop bowing and apologizing and start protecting!

    January 11, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  4. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Americans are smart people and will not allow anyone including Republicans play politics when it comes to terrorism. We've heard some of the worst and most repulsive statements made by Republicans in their attempt to continue the Bush era of "fear" and "denial" of 9/11 being a terrorist act. We will not allow them to white wash away the death of 3,000 Americans for their political gain when we as Americans pay tribute those who died including the heroes of 9/11. We will never forget.

    January 11, 2010 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  5. Kevin in Ohio

    The President finally said last week that we were at war with terrorists... a huge step in the right direction. But now his actions must speak even louder....much louder.... than his words.

    January 11, 2010 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  6. shmeckell

    He is not doing a bad job with terrorism, he does some things I don’t agree with, he is not perfect but who is. We have been safe for a while because they were on the run, because we were on the offensive. The terrorists have fled Afghanistan and set up shop elsewhere. Now that they are settled down elsewhere they have an opportunity to go on the offensive.

    We need to invest in intelligents and work with the other governments where they now reside (which according to the media, it looks like we are). Bush was correct to go on the offensive in Afghanistan (not so much Iraq) to not only put them on the run but to break up the billion dollar a year opium market they had/have going.

    January 11, 2010 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  7. Sam

    CNN conducting a poll? What a joke! No wonder the results are pro-Obama!

    January 11, 2010 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  8. RNC = DNC = politics as usual

    Why should Obama have to protect us at all? I thought after he was elected, the world would love the USA and there would be no more threat.

    Guess not.

    January 11, 2010 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  9. Loup Garou 782

    I am an AmericanAnd I am not confident obama can handle terorists. Where do you get your information that "most Americans."
    Your CNN opinion research poll questions a couple hundred people, throws out the answers they dont like then reports "most Americans."
    What a frigging joke.

    January 11, 2010 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  10. Wanda

    Bush put a lot in place that never got done - it was a lazy administration with nothing but lip service like Cheney and his daughter – if Americans will not it - this Administration works and does not sit on their as........!

    January 11, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  11. Gary, Los Angeles

    Really? Who did you poll?

    January 11, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  12. The world lacks common sense

    And where was this poll conducted? Obama got lucky that bomb didn't go off on Christmas day............period. too bad he unraveled Bush's anti terror policies.

    January 11, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  13. Michele

    So, the McCain scare tactics do not appear to be working...AGAIN. Wonder what his next idea will be: "I, John McCain, voted AGAINST the stimulus package...oh, before I voted for it. I am the one standing in the way of progressives in the Congress who want to provide health care for all, whether they are productive citizens or not. I am the one who agrees that this costs too much. I am the one who supports every war spending bill, because I am the one who supports our brave men and women that (I put) are in harm's way. Only I, John McCain, can take the bruising that comes from being the ONE."

    January 11, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  14. Tia Lively

    Obama has already shown he is not alert and ready for terrorism; he has been in office a year already and has not even admitted that the US is under attack by al Queda until last week. He is just mad because the US was attacked by a muslim after he has bowed and scraped to them all year, putting down the US's past but now finds that our past administrations were okay after all... His idea of a terrorist fix is to close Gitmo, which is looney.

    January 11, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  15. Ryan Indy

    Sorry CNN I dont believe this poll.. Why is it the left could say anything they pleased about GW but for some reason OBAMA is protected???? What comes around goes around Democrats and you should have thought about this before you called Bush every name in the book every day of the week. Obama is a WEAK, ARROGANT, MISINFORMED WIMP that is a ONE term Loser. And Im sure CNN wont print this because they protect the choosen one, that is the truth!!!

    January 11, 2010 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  16. Orange Curtain, CA

    Only a neanderthal that gets all their info from ClusterFaux News would believe the President can't handle it. Nothing has changed and if anything he has made the nation stronger by investing more in security.

    January 11, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  17. dude palin

    39% of the Glenn Becks of the world !!

    January 11, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  18. Tired of The Rhetoric

    I have to laugh at these polls. Did they really ask people if they felt if the felt Obama could handle terrorism?
    There are thousands of people running the goverment and its various agencies. To think Obama himself can stop terrorism is a joke.
    No matter how strong an individual is on what should be done to protect us, if those below him in command make errors, things will happen.

    January 11, 2010 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  19. joel T.

    I read every day about some new poll CNN is taking yet I am never questioned. Where do you sign up???

    I would like to voice my view on OBAMA here...

    I didn't vote for him however he IS our Commander In Chief.
    If WE are going to allow NON – MILITARY people to run this NATION that title should be done away with...

    I will support our President because that is what MY parents taught me to do. However, 3 years from now... I hope we have someone who IS of a military mind and UNDERSTANDS what terrorism really is AND
    can honestly say he IS theCOMMANDER IN CHIEF.

    Terrorism will not go away unless we show the terrorist that we MEAN BUSINESS and I don't think WE THE PEOPLE mean business as of yet. What's it going to take??? Another Sept. 11th before we all get back on the same page as we were just after that terrible day???

    January 11, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  20. Four and The Door

    Janet needs to go. If her system requires an Al Qaeda bomb to fail to fully ignite in economy class seating of a jet inbound to an American city I would think we should expect a better system.

    If Obama lets her slide on that mindset, he is fully responsible for the one that doesn't fail to ignite. She's the best he can find?!?!?

    January 11, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  21. Babaganusch

    As an Independent voter, I need to see evidence that he can handle it before I say he can. I haven't seen the evidence yet...only words. These polls are a joke, and do nothing more than identify who is a Democrat vs a Republican.

    January 11, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  22. John D.

    How ignorant is CNN. Who got to you? Where did you come up with these figures? The real majority does not think Obama is up to the task.

    January 11, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  23. ted

    Obama will do everything in his power to deal with terrorism. One of the first very important things is to boost troop strength in Afghanistan, which he did in March 2009 and again late 2009. That is where the real fight against Alqueda is. NOT Iraq as the Republicans would have you think.

    Keep up the good work, President Obama.

    January 11, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  24. Reaganomics Leads To Feudalism

    How many people have died in terrorist attacks since Barack Obama took office nearly one year ago?

    How many people died in terrorst attacks in the first year of George W. Bush's presidency?

    Enough said.

    January 11, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  25. jane seattle = jane hanoi

    cnn more bull from faulty polling. who did you ask Farhid Zakaria and his family?? we have lost confidence in the chosen one to protect us. He has had 2 strikes, one more and he is out.

    January 11, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
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