July 2nd, 2008
07:00 AM ET
15 years ago

Poll: Terrorism fears are fading

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/02/art.poll.gi.jpg
caption="Mourners throw flowers in a reflecting pool at Ground Zero."]

(CNN) - As Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama battle over who has the best approach to national security, a new CNN poll finds Americans' concerns about terrorism have hit an all-time low for the post-September 11 era.

According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday, 35 percent of Americans believe a terrorist attack somewhere in the United States is likely over the next several weeks. The figure is the lowest in a CNN poll since the al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington, which killed nearly 3,000 people.

Between 2002 and 2006, summertime polls typically showed that a majority of Americans believed that a terrorist attack was likely. Last summer, that figure dropped to 41 percent. This summer, it dropped another six points.

The new CNN poll also indicates that the war in Iraq remains deeply unpopular. Only three in ten voters favor the war, while 68 percent oppose it.

Similarly, only a third of voters would like to see the next president keep the same number of troops in Iraq that are currently stationed there.

For McCain, who is seeking to highlight his national security credentials and has staunchly defended the U.S. presence in Iraq, the latest poll results may not be viewed in a positive light.

"Senator McCain's greatest strength is in foreign policy, particularly his reputation as the candidate best able to fight the war on terror," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said.

"As the threat of a terrorist attack continues to recede in the mind of the American voter, the state of the economy and other domestic issues are likely to become even more important. That would be good news for Senator Obama, since the Democrats currently beat or tie the Republicans on every issue
except terrorism."

Another potential problem for McCain may be found in President Bush's latest job approval ratings.

According to the new survey, only 30 percent of Americans approve of how Bush is handling his job, while 68 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush's job performance. These numbers are roughly consistent with the president's approval ratings over most of the last two years.

These numbers also reinforce the need for the presumptive Republican nominee to create an impression of distance and distinction between himself and Bush. Democrats, on the other hand, are eager to tie McCain to the unpopular outgoing Republican president and portray his possible election as the
equivalent of a third Bush term.

The poll, conducted June 26-29, surveyed 906 registered voters and carries a sampling error of 3.5 percentage points.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (202 Responses)
  1. THE O

    oops!!! what will mcain do now. his only thing that had a chance is going out the window. but wait will bush and dick raise the treat level once again to help mcain? I think they just might.....


    BARACK THE VOTE!!!!!!!!

    July 2, 2008 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  2. No McCain!

    I just hope we don't get too comfortable...

    Obama '08!

    July 2, 2008 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  3. Fella from Chicago

    That son-of-gun George Bush must be doing something right, even if it means getting unpopular legislation through both Houses called the Patriot Act to insure this country's safety. Yep, you screwed-up a few years back when you went on board an aircraft carrier and declared military operations were over in Iraq. Forgot about guerrilla warfare, did you? The recent surge has started to correct that huge mistake, but it will take awhile. 68% disapproval rating; I wonder how many of those gave back their stimulus checks? I know I didn't. Thanks, George W. Can't wait until John gets into Office to continue providing the security from Muslim terrorists attacking this country as they have in the recent past in London and Madrid. You've done ok on that end. God Bless America!

    July 2, 2008 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  4. JD at Pope AFB

    Of course Bush will not get any credit for the drop in terrorism against the US. If Clinton had a set of you know what we wouldn't of had all those terrorist attacks against US citizens and the eventual lead up to 9/11. Keep the US safe, vote McCain.

    July 2, 2008 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  5. HG

    The less people care about the war, the more McCains numbers will sink comparable to Rudy Giulianis ran on empty threats and the fear of people.

    July 2, 2008 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  6. DVal

    Fear over terrorism isn't fading......people just have more immediate fears, such as how to pay their bills with an economy that is in recession

    July 2, 2008 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  7. Chad, Wisco

    This is a very bad sign. We are getting complacent as a nation again and that will be when an attack occurs. I pray that we are able to foil all attacks before they happen, but in today's reality I struggle to believe that the case.

    July 2, 2008 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  8. Kyle, MI ... former Democrat, now Independent

    This poll is stupid! All that it is saying is that the government (homeland security) is better managing the threats against us and taking care of things behind the scenes. Also they are not making any major news conferences to warn us about an attack and they are not moving the 'threat level' around willy-nilly (sorry for the technical term 🙂 ). All that this poll is doing is focusing in on one point without looking at the whole big picture... why don't we take some real polls!

    July 2, 2008 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  9. sherry






    July 2, 2008 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  10. Eunice

    Thanks to George W. Bush's Presidency. Was it not for him, America would have been attacked several more times. That is why we must be careful who we elect to be President.

    Great job Mr. President. America will miss you and history will remember you as the strongest President America ever had. You did what was necessary regardless of the opinion polls. A good President should never govern based on what the opinion polls say.

    We appreciate you, President Bush.

    July 2, 2008 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  11. Rusty, Portland

    Americans forget bad things "fast." Too fast. Poll indicates it's time to "watch out."

    July 2, 2008 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  12. Mike

    Do not worry. Leiberman and Guilianni have already promised a new terrorist attack in 2009. And of course. Only McBush can save us all.
    If only he can remember who is a Shiite and who is a Sunni and where they are from. Oh, I forgot. That is Leibermans job.

    July 2, 2008 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  13. John B. From New Hampshire

    let's hope this lasts. i'd hate to see the GOP politics of fear machine win over again. NO MORE!!!!!!!

    Obama '08!

    July 2, 2008 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  14. Shelly in IL

    You may not agree CNN, but the more I think about the whole situation the more I think Bush planned the whole thing. He played on these poor lost souls so he can secure his oil fortune and they bought into it. He is accountable for the lives lost fromm 9/11 and the war. Bush/Cheney deserves to be jailed; they are the lowest of the low and they don't care about the little people.

    Oh yeah and PS: McCain had nothing to do with the new GI bill, he rejected it and everyone knows that. Just another lie from Bush.

    You may not post CNN crew but I had to say it.

    July 2, 2008 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  15. Dash Riprock

    That's why McCain and Joe Lieberman and Charlie Black are trying so hard to bring that good ol' fear right back out with all of their terrorism talk-

    Joe has one scheduled for next February, apparently

    Sprinkle in a little Rudy "9-11" Giuliani crazy talk, and bong: instant fear.

    They've been doing it for years, and they're real pros

    July 2, 2008 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  16. blaising

    "The only thing we have to fear...is fear itself" Who said that?

    July 2, 2008 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  17. dave g, Minneapolis

    Ah....complacency. So nice to have back. I just wish CNN and the news channels would remove the ticker stripe at the bottom of the screen. Remember before 9/11 when you could just watch TV and not have to read tickers to?

    It really is incredible that we Americans have such a short attention span. People really don't think that illegal immigration matters or that our borders are porous. These things do matter. We run our foreign policy and our national protection in a way that is akin to opening all the doors and windows of your house in a bad neighborhood, yelling threats at neighbors and breaking into their houses only to get upset when someone comes into our house.

    Pull out of Iraq, Bosnia, Germany, Japan....and defend OUR country. Let's secure our house and stop annoying the neighbors. Being the World Police does not contribute to our security. Having an independent domestic energy policy, better education, technology development and commitment to individual rights will make us secure and successful.

    China and India are poised to blow us out of the water. They will become the biggest consumers of energy and we won't have any say about the prices. It's not terrorism, but it will kill us just the same.

    July 2, 2008 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  18. Veteran in Kansas

    It's about time. Fearing a terrorist attack plays into the hands of terrorist. The adminstrantion did this nation a great disservice when it spread fear of terrorist as a way of controlling the opinion polls.

    We may chalk up detention of terror suspects without charge, denial of lawyers to terror suspects, denial of basic legal rights, wire tapping without court supervison all as victories for groups wanting to harm our nation. As Franklin told the Conninetial Congress, beware of what rights you are prepared to give up in the name of security, or you may awaken and find that you have neither.

    July 2, 2008 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  19. Tired of W, OH

    This is to be expected. The sting of all tragedies fades with time. It doesn't mean that Americans have forgotten or feel more safe. It only means that they refuse to let it dominate their lives anymore.

    It's sad that the Republicans keep trying to re-open old, painful wounds to try to get people to vote on their fears again. Isn't this the very definition of terrorism? To influence others' actions and perceptions through the use of fear? Couldn't the republicans be accused of fostering the very thing they claim to be protecting us from? I think so.

    July 2, 2008 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  20. No Granpappy McCain

    This is what McCain wants. When some type of attack is allowed to take place by our current administration, be it on our soil or or not, just before the election, they will try to use it to their advantage.

    July 2, 2008 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  21. NYC Native

    OH NO! Where's the color-coded alerts when we need them! The GOP will have to do something about this!

    July 2, 2008 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  22. Chris K

    Don't worry about America.

    I'm quite sure the Republicans are going to fan the flames of fear really good for you this year. They might even work with their friends the Saudis to see if they can bring you a good terror scare or two. Maybe they'll dig up another good Bin Laden threat audio tape.

    The biggest threat to the security of America IS the right wing itself. Please don't let them scare you out of seeing the truth.

    July 2, 2008 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  23. Not fooled by fear

    Finally, the country is coming to it's senses! What an absolute shame that the bush admin turned a large portion of this country into fearful weinies. It's absolutely unamerican. I'm glad that we've regained our bearings and see the situation for what it really is – maybe now we can deal with the issue of terrorism intelligently and realistically. I'm happy to see the waning efffects of the bush admins consistent fear mongering. It's a shame although, to see the McCain camp trying to use it. I think he's in for a surprise.

    July 2, 2008 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  24. Mike - Texas

    I guess that President Bush has done "too good" of a job of beating back the terrorists.

    Let's see, there were 5 major attacks on US facilities and ships during the Clinton years, not to mention the kidnappings of US citizens, the bombing of places where US citzens frequented.

    People forget how BAD it really was, and now the democRATs want to take us back to a pre 911 way of thinking.


    July 2, 2008 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  25. FLORIDA Voter for Obama

    Oh please people GET OVER IT. You can't live life in fear forever. Even if there was a so called "terrorist attack" TODAY what are you gonna do? Shut down the country? Hide your kids? Dig a hole and bury yourself in it? I have 2 words for you:

    MOVE ON!

    July 2, 2008 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
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