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. former HRC Supporter now McCain Supporter

    So that means you're gonna trust your country to an empty suit like Obama all of a sudden? I don't think so. btw, to all you McCain bashers, doesn't this mean that Bush and McCain's surge has kept this country SAFE? Try bashing him on that, you big WHINNERS! and JERKS!

    July 2, 2008 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  2. The Truth

    lets see now....

    oh yeah President Bush thank you for keeping our country safe

    or one of you haters, what have you got?

    July 2, 2008 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  3. demwit

    Who would possibly want to attack America!?

    July 2, 2008 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  4. Barry

    Of course the Neo-cons will have none of this. How dare the sheep not be afraid anymore!!

    Countdown to the next "terrorist" attacks starts now.

    July 2, 2008 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  5. Bob

    Let's hope that the phony terror alerts are not moving people as much anymore. It's hard to be worried about these phony distractions when people are worried about more important things like the failing economy, job losses, high food and gas prices etc. But don't worry CNN since you and others in the MSM are in bed with the Neo Con agenda you' will find a way to " scare" people again.

    July 2, 2008 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  6. ShayFad

    You mean americans are no longer buying the fear mongering by the executive branch? It's about time

    July 2, 2008 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  7. JCB

    People are not as concerned about terror threats right now because we have bigger problems on the home front. The mortage crisis, gas prices, and rising unemployment are the main focus now for most Americans. Another reason that fear of terrorism has lowered is because the threat is not constantly in the news. We don't see yellow or orange threat levels on televison every day anymore - thank goodness.

    July 2, 2008 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  8. Stephen

    Things that scare me more than islamic terrorism:
    – Environmental damage that reaches the point where it's irreversible
    – Gas prices that reach the point where it costs more to get to work than I actually make while there
    – Runaway inflation to the point where my savings is gone
    – Corporations running my government

    They should scare you too!

    July 2, 2008 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  9. tigerakabj

    Are you sure Charlie Black, McSenile, and Lieberman know that?

    Speaking of terrorism, how about McCain's backer's firm pleaded guilty to funding a U.S. DESIGNATED terrorist group in Colombia? Read Huffington Post. If this were Barack....

    Oh well, Obama 2008/2012!

    July 2, 2008 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  10. oil rules

    Not that I want people to be afraid and live in fear, however, it would be helpful to show the planes hitting the towers every now and again to remind the public of what happened. Our government and the administration has worked hard to keep other attacks from happening. Just because we have not had an attack does not mean terrorists are not trying to do us harm. We need to stay strong in this area and not weaken ourselves with our heads in the sand.

    July 2, 2008 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  11. Johhny C.

    Amazing how the press spins this.

    American fears of terrorism being reduced should be a win-win for Republicans, but somehow they play this out a bad thing for Republicans?

    Let me guess, if the economy improved, that would be a plus for Obama too, right?

    July 2, 2008 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  12. Enlightened Voter

    Bush and Cheney made all these terrorists and when Obama becomes President we will not have these people trying to kill us. He will unite the world and make these people our friends in the years to come. Yes He Will!

    July 2, 2008 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  13. saga4obama

    someone should send a memo to Lieberman...
    we more worried about gas prices than terrorist
    also Americans are more worried about the terrorist in the WH than in Iraq...WMD, please try GOP grand oil party...
    the Repubs have inflicted more harm on the American people than Bin Laden in the last 7 1/2 years...
    now they are fighting to Get GWIII McCain into office.
    McCain: Big Oil Candidate...took $1,069,854.00 from big oil, at least $485,526 just in 08. his campaign team is full of BIG OIL LOBBYEST...he has their interest at heart not yours.
    McCain: is he the one responsible for the deaths of 167 soldiers, do to an explosion of a 1000 lb bomb, set off from his temper and stupidity? is this the man who gave military information to his captors? is solitary confinement 2 hookers in a hotel John? well why wont you release your military records...what do you have to hide...
    Terrorism fears are not fading...hell i am scared to death to fill up my gas tank, break into cold sweet in the shopping market, now that's terror.
    McCain cut your Lobbyist advisers loose, open your military record! WHAT DOES MCCAIN HAVE TO HIDE?


    July 2, 2008 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  14. Joe Reg

    Despite the poll # and the continuing stability due to the good work of all the parties providing us security,

    The Bush republicans Mcain wants to inculcate a sense of imminent fear of danger in America. In fact, they think that may help them keep the presidentcy and forestall any hope for change in a new direction.

    Change from economic mismanagement, lost of jobs, lost of people's properties, lost of standing in world affairs, sky rocketing price of fuel.

    A new breeze is blowing.

    Barack will bring back economic prosperity and serve notice to big oil that collusion and price fixing will be dealt with by vigorous regulations.

    Obama 08 & 12.

    July 2, 2008 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  15. Drew, Central FL

    Rut-roh Raggy! Here come da ghost of Charlie Black.

    I can almost her John Hurt saying "We need to show the public why they need us." V.

    Remember. Remember the 5th of November.

    Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.

    July 2, 2008 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  16. Kiah

    This should be a wake up call to ALL Repubs. Stop trying to scare people into voting for you. Campaign on your own record not that of the latest intelligence report.

    Obama '08!

    July 2, 2008 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  17. Tanya Kujath

    FYI terroism is not on the American publics top ten things to worry about. We are more worried about gas, food, eg (the economy). We are also aware that this war which is causing this problem has indeed targeted the wrong people. McCain is not helping to be elected when he talks of continuence of the war and supporting Bush's tax cuts for the rich. VOTE OBAMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 2, 2008 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  18. Gary Chandler in Canada

    Two misconceptions, by Americans , (defined by jay Leno street interviews) add up to McCain losing the election.
    One, the mistaken impression that things are 'going well' in Iraq and, two, the dangerous belief he would make a smarter military leader of the USA, makes the 'fear' campaign less effective.
    Include Cubans losing Fidel, gaining cell phones, and North Korea moving to detente, and it looks Bush is doing everything he can to stop his old nemesis from winning.
    If Bush really wants to support McCain, he better manufacture a crisis in Iran; which Obama could handle better, FYI, than false resume McCain.
    McCain was an 'army brat' born into an Elite military family. The lineage stopped with him though. He was an underachieving miscreant, public records, whose daddy kept him from getting kicked out of the academy, improperly got him in flight school, promoted him to Captain over more experienced candidates, and secured an unbelievable amount of medals for his son.
    A good Title for a movie about McCain would be 'Silver Spoon in Mouth'.

    July 2, 2008 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  19. Dave

    Where's the story about how the US had Mandela as a terrorist??? This is why younger folks are rising up to take better control of the govt.

    July 2, 2008 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  20. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    The republicans are way ahead of the dems in protecting this country from terrorism, no doubt about it. While the dems have tried to block the administration on nearly every front, I believe they want another attack so they can blame Bush for that too. Obama is a joke on foreign policy and when he surrounds himself with the likes of Albright, Kerry, Murtha, etc. we will really be in trouble in the future. Obama, say Hi to Rezko for me!

    July 2, 2008 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  21. NickNas

    OOPS then the GOP is in BIG trouble. Fear is the Only thing they know how to use to win anything.

    July 2, 2008 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  22. Anonymous

    That's unfortunate for McCain, considering that one of the only categories he is leading Obama in (on gallup.com) is keeping the country safe from terrorist attacks. By comparison, Obama's strength is the economy, which most of America is concerned about.

    July 2, 2008 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  23. Xavier

    After seeing what the 8 years of the Bush fear politics got us, I think we are ready for change. Lets end the nightmare, say no to McCain.

    Obama in 2008.

    July 2, 2008 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  24. For the Love of God

    No comments? I thought all the Bush haters keep saying that Bush's illegal wars were making us more unsafe? Oh, I guess most American's feel that the threat of terrorism has diminished somehow...

    You mean that pro-active wars in Afghanistan is keeping al Qaeda on the run, that cutting of their funding is making running operations harder, that attracting fighters to Iraq is keeping them from attacking us elsewhere....gee, sounds like we're doing some thing right.

    2 of the 3 Axis of Evil threats are mostly diminished now. Saddam is out. Kim Jung Il is likely in the process of working with the international community. That leaves Iran. But wow, 66% of the Axis of Evil under control in 7 years. That sounds pretty successful to me.

    Let's also not forget that Libya (Khadafi) gave up its WMDs in 2003...after we invading Iraq. Does anyone realize that in 2003 Iran suspended its nuclear program because they didn't want to tip of George Bush? But once the Democrats started their war against George Bush, Ahmadinejad saw his opportunity and started up their nuclear program yet again, knowing the US was a house divided and wouldn't stand up against Iran. But that doesn't take away the fact that the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq had very positive effects...and we bungled it by infighting.

    Oh yeah, after invading Iraq...Syria removed its troops from Lebanon. Iraqis voted for real, so did Afghanis, women were allowed to run for local offices in Saudi Arabia, new elections were held in Lebanon...all after 2003.

    Vote for Change. Change in the Middle East. A free democratic Middle East is a peaceful world.

    July 2, 2008 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  25. Jamaal

    Mcshame is a war monger and is not suitable to lead this Country that we all Love

    July 2, 2008 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
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