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. Tammy - KCMO

    "As the threat of a terrorist attack continues to recede in the mind of the American voter"

    I don't think this statement is correct. I highly doubt anyone will forget that it happened or that it could happen in the future. However, I'm not going to spend my life living in fear of what could happen. I would hope the US has learned from it's past and has put enough safety measures in place and made the public more aware of its surroundings to prevent this from happening again.

    I think Obama is our hope to prevent this from happening again anytime soon as for once we have the chance to put someone in office that is willing to talk to our enemies and try to understand them rather than bully them and try to make them govern their countries in the same manner as the US.

    When will the Republicans and the religious right realize not everyone has to be like us? Everyone has the right to be different and it shouldn't always be this mentality of "if you're not with us, you must be against us".

    July 2, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  2. Richard, FL

    Before the elections, Bush will announce a change in the official color warning for terrorism. As in the past, whenever Bush's gang is in trouble, he issues a new terror alert. It is so ridiculous that in some cases he has increased the "threat alert" because of data that was actually two years old. Bush has no integrity at all and McCain supports him over 95% of the time.

    July 2, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  3. Down with Obama

    justine July 2nd, 2008 10:23 am ET

    Gail..check out who McCain REALLY is. He was married when he was captured, and it wasn't to Cindy. He had a beautiful wife, his age, who waited 5 years until he was released. Unfortunately, Carol got in a car accident while is was in captivity and she wasn't the same girl physically that he left ,so he dumped her…NICE GUY..

    People like you make me sick....were you there????? How many other VietNam vets came home to their wives being gone or unfaithful to them. Many of the Vets that came home sure weren't the same as when they left. Unless you were there....keep you comments to yourself!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 2, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  4. Peter

    The fear factor wont work this time. Once bitten twice shy. You can only fool people once and as soon as they realise then you will be big trouble and thats why McCain is stuck and wishing for some God send terror alarm. But beware the alert will be raised in september for maximum effect.

    July 2, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  5. Roofin Reality, Houston, Tx.

    I'm a supporter of Senator Obama,

    IF I were Senator McCain, I'd argue that going along with the same strategies that have been in place over the last 6 years is why he should get their vote. Strategy works as there are no new attacks, especially not on US territory. That is fact.

    The problem with that though, as the article points out, is that McCain then ties himself to President Bush and all of the woeful baggage he brings due to his overwhelming unpopularity. And as people reflect back over his eight years, they are going to realize that not much good happened under Bush's watch. By the way, President Bush, thanks for taking Nelson Mandela off the terror watch list this week, along with Ghandi and Mother Teresa a little while ago.

    As the article also correctly points out, as more people have less fear of terrorism, they then reflect back on those things that are affecting their every day lives. Gas prices, food prices, energy prices, lack of healthcare for many ($7+ million uninsured), crumbling infrastructure (bridges falling), the environment (as the ice cap may fully thaw this summer for the first time ever), education experiences and learning at primary school and cost of higher education.

    For all of these things, Senator Obama's message resonates very clearly, very loudly and most importatnly, very positively.

    As a Christian moderate/conservative, I believe strongly in family. I don't see Senator McCain as upholding (certainly not in his private life in divorcing his first wife, although for financial reasons, a lot of people have done the same thing) the ISSUES which help strengthen the family. I listed the issues above.

    Senator Obama has from his very beginning, perhaps because he had such a non-traditional family, felt he needed to cling to the notion of a strong family. I know I did even. For while I had 4 siblings, I didn't have one of my parents for very long due to an early age death. As such, Obama's life's work, and the causes he champions now, positions him to move this country in a a very wonderful way forward. For that, he gets my full support.

    July 2, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  6. Eleanor

    americans and the rest of the world are not buying the rovian fear mongering tactics any longer .!!!!
    However I would not put it past the republicans for one second to somehow orchestrate another one to try and get a boost to the white house
    thats how bad the light is they are held in and they did it to themselves
    with their fear mongering and swiftboating
    Try sticking to the issues....Now thats a trail the republicans have never been on

    July 2, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  7. jr

    Vigilance must be maintained. To do otherwise would be an act of total arrogance. Don't ever loose sight of 9/11 and don't delude yourselves into thinking that it couldn't happen again.

    July 2, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  8. Pam

    Time for republicans to ratchet up their campaign of fear.

    July 2, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  9. Down with Obama

    THANK YOU....That's too bad . . .

    Happy Birthday America!!!

    July 2, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  10. Nate

    This dosn't change the fact that Al Qaeda has regrooped, or that their worst attacks come in years after elections.
    Opinions don't change facts. Americans could get a nasty suprise next year no mater who wins.

    July 2, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  11. Mark

    Jen, CA – You may want to do some more research, John McCain is NO WAR HERO....Songbird McCain, Google it.

    July 2, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  12. William, from Cali!

    That would be a terrible mistake for this country....................................It's what the "ENEMY" wants you to do..........................become complacent; and are "not watching", like last time.....................................Remember! 9/11

    July 2, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  13. America for OBAMA!

    Great, now cheney/bush will commit one themselves. It polls well for their party after all.

    July 2, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  14. ANGIE

    well republicans what do you think about that i guess your gonna have to start talking about the real issuses that face the american people and stop using the FEAR CARD it wont work americans has woken up to your fear tacticts!!!!

    July 2, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  15. Little Lulu

    Well, CNN – I know you won't post this because it doesn't go along with your thinking that Obama is the savior of the world, HOWEVER, just let everyone sit back and do nothing and see what happens. The terrorists are just sitting back laughing at how gullible Americans are for falling at the feet of Obamanation. He'll run under Michelle's dress tail so fast she won't know what hit her. They'll hit and they'll hit hard. I just hope the place they hit is right where you idiots are sitting, relaxing, letting the government pick up the tab for your medicaid, food stamps, etc and drinking your kool-aid. We aren't living in a war torn country – dodging bombs and martyrs – but we will be as soon as Obamanation gets selected. This is real folks, and pretending (as you did when you were a child) that it isn't does not make it any less real. You'd better grow up and start caring what happens on US soil.

    It's coming folks – you'd better get your head out of the sand and get ready. You laugh now, let's see how hard you laugh when it hits right in your own back yard.

    July 2, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  16. Sue

    We are safe because the great president George Bush put the fear of God into the radical muslims. They will try again, they have promised that with their jihad which was, by the way, not in response to anything the US had done but just because their religion tells them to kill those who disagree with their religion.

    July 2, 2008 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  17. McCain is still Running?

    Then we will double down with our efforts till every child is panicked for their life, raise the warning to Red, Go Republicans.

    July 2, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  18. Len in Washington

    OK, here goes. Over 46,000 people are killed in traffic accidents EVERY YEAR in this country. That comes to a staggering 332,000 people have lost their lives since the attack on the World Trade Center. I'm more afraid of my neighbors than any terrorist threat aimed at me by the "Fear Mongers." Wake up people. They're playing you like a fiddle and you're buying into every note. It's good for their "Business."
    Want to save our people from the greatest imminent threat? I'll leave the answer up to you.

    July 2, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  19. Rob

    Typical America. Out of sight out of Mind. there will be a time and something terrible will happen again. just a question of time. everybody hates us (thanks to the "great" foreign policy of our current administration). it will take years to lick our wounds.

    People dont forget, or you will be Surprised again. be prepared...


    July 2, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  20. Jay

    why are my comments not getting posted CNN? Oh thats right, Im not pro Obama.

    July 2, 2008 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  21. RJ, CA

    Let's get over the McCain split with his first wife — shall we? It has nothing to do with this campaign. After all, we had to “get over” Ted Kennedy’s causing the death of a young woman.
    • McCain was married to his first wife, Carol, for 15 years
    • He adopted Carol’s 2 children from a previous marriage, and then they had another child together
    • John and Carol McCain divorced in 1980
    • McCain has repeatedly admitted his mistakes
    • John’s divorce settlement with Carol included two houses and ongoing financial support for her medical treatments
    • Carol and John remain on good terms.
    • Carol supports her ex-husband's 2008 presidential campaign
    • Carol has often said that she was not bitter
    • She says: "He’s a good guy. We are still good friends. He is the best man for president.”
    • McCain has been married to Cindy, his second wife, for 28 years
    • They have 3 children together
    • In 1991 John and Cindy adopted a 4th — a girl of “color” from Bangladesh
    • ALL McCain children love, respect, and think highly of their father

    July 2, 2008 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  22. Bob Indianapolis, IN

    So can we bring back color coded threat levels and put Tom Ridge's mug back on the tube like they did in 2004 so you can start exuding FEAR like pavlov's dog?

    Hope all you smart voters who bought into this crap back then are enjoying your robust economy...

    July 2, 2008 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  23. Marie

    Who in their right mind would believe anything Bush/McCain and company would say regarding terrorism. These are the little boys that always cry WOLF. Enough already. If something does happen, the local authorities, family,friends others will come to your rescue not these fools and idiots.

    July 2, 2008 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  24. Nicole in NE

    Well fear is exactly how we got Bush – and it's done WONDERS for us!

    I honestly thought McCain would rise above all of that in the beginning, but he isn't rejecting Black and Liberman's comments....so I guess not.

    Obama 08'

    July 2, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  25. MLG

    People forget easily. Look at 9/11 we did not expect that.

    July 2, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
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