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. JFK

    Republicans beat that subject black and blue in the last several elections for the shear fear factor. Yes it is still important but seems to me we still let our guard down in 2001. I just wonder why and how we ignored all the clear signs? Lets not ever underestimate those who dislike us but lets face it, getting rid of Bush will sure help us on the political front. He is a lightnening rod for American hatred.

    July 2, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  2. Angus McDugan

    Ah... The naive, short sighted, and quick to forget. Read into this what you want, but this can go either way. We don't worry because there is no longer a threat, or we don't worry because we are kept safe.

    July 2, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  3. smile

    Jen, CA
    how unfortunate to have mc cheeks as the w.h occupant

    you are referring to the other POW┬┤s not mc cheeks, he is completely different=unpatrotic, not a war hero, dumb....boy I can go on and on.....not worth it though

    July 2, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  4. Dan in Chicago

    Isn't this good news for McCain? It means the Republicans are protecting this country.

    July 2, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  5. Nicole in NE

    I love all the comments about "when we are complacent" they will attack us again – they could do it now if they wanted, there are holes in our borders the size of the grand canyon. There have been many reports that the air marshalls aren't there, people can still get weapons on planes, etc, etc....

    Liberman is saying that the will happen no matter what, so WHAT exactly has BUSH done to make us safer?

    It seems like no one can answer this question.

    July 2, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  6. Peter E

    I'll be eagerly anticipating how the democrats will try to spin this as one of their accomplishments...
    Oh, so when the economy is down, gas prices high, etc. then the 'republicans were in charge.'
    But when at the same time people feel more secure and the threat of terrorism is diminished then 'well, it's because Obama did it... even if he wasn't even in Congress yet at the time...'

    July 2, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  7. Brad - California

    Jen, CA "...how fortunate we will be to have a man like John McCain lead our great country."

    Give me a break – people like you are the problem! The Vietnam conflict was over more than 30 years ago. Get over it. We lost at a cost of 55,000+ American lives.

    If you think that was worthwhile, then maybe you need to move to Southeast Asia, or if you feel that our meddling in the Middle East is worthwhile, maybe you need to move to the Iraq, or at least get a job with Haliburton or any other American corporation that profits from conflicts that we create.

    Haven't we learned anything about constant meddling?

    July 2, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  8. Joe Regis

    Fear and scare tactics have been the rallying cry for the repubs.

    This time the people have demonstrated that they will not by it.

    The breeze of change is blowing on America.

    Obama 08 & 12.

    July 2, 2008 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  9. McCain Man

    And just who do you libs think has kept you safe for the last 7 years?. Those terrorists are just waiting for a weak president so they can strike again. Does no one learn from history? It is not fear mongering that keeps republicans on their toes–it is fact! Please do not get complacent–vote McCain. "ask not what your country can do for you!" Ask what you can do for your country. Many have sacrificed and died for our right to have free speech on these blogs. Respect that right!

    July 2, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  10. Christian

    I blame the writer's strike. If 24 had aired earlier this year like it was supposed to, the fear would still be there.

    July 2, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  11. not important

    Bad news for Charlie Black, John McCain and Joe Lieberman?

    July 2, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  12. Rob, Los Angeles

    one thing we can agree on, you Dems really love to talk. maybe you are trying to convince yourselves that what you are saying is right.

    July 2, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  13. Chad, Wisco

    Too tired in the morning?

    July 2nd, 2008 8:46 am ET
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    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 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  14. Filipina

    Fear factor again not this time McCain, Obama will lead this country.

    July 2, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  15. richard



    No doubt the Bush administration will like to change that opinion. And there is no doubt they have it within them to let something happen.

    They are criminals.


    July 2, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  16. Ceebee

    You are exactly right. The terrorists do not need to attack us again. They can just sit back and watch us self destruct. We have bankrupted our country, trampled on our constitution, sent our best and brightest off to die in a war that had nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks. Bin Laden could not have planned it better himself -he makes a video of himself sitting in a cave every few months, and then he sits back and lets our government do the rest.

    July 2, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  17. Ellie in Aurora, CO

    It was 8 years between the past al Quaeda attacks, and they are as strong as ever now, thanks to an administration that started a fight with the wrong enemies! Ignorant people still talk about 9/11 and Iraq in the same breath, as if there is some connection. Please can we have a smart president, who will not only protect the country, but understands what we need to do so people will stop hating us. Getting permanent bases out of the Middle East would be a good start. Go Obama!

    July 2, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  18. Godwin

    Fear mongering doesn't cut it anymore. 9/11 happened because America took for granted that it's a nation for all. And this is why it's the greatest nation on earth too! 9/11 is never gonna happen again! We know better now. So, republicans should figure out something else to campaign on.

    July 2, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  19. Truth Squad..?

    I am more afraid of the Bush Admin and Mccain to follow in king georges footsteps than a bunch of goons that hide out in caves all day... we had information that the terrorist attack on 9/11 was going to happen, we had information that there were terrorists already state side, many of the terrorists were on watch lists... GWB dropped the ball, just like he did on katrina.. that scares me more.. heart disease and cancer scare me more... pollution scares me more.. 100 more years of an iraq war for oil scares me more...

    July 2, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  20. Clinton, no, wait, McCain Supporter

    Americans become dismissive of the threat of terrorist attacks at our own peril. They're happening now all over the world. Why would anyone think we are the exception?

    Get real, Americans! No matter who you prefer in the upcoming election, check the length of time between attacks in any one country and do the math.

    July 2, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  21. David

    That's because we are now seeing that a lot of this "terror" is fabrication by the neo-con's who have hijacked the GOP and this country. This needs to come to an end and the people must reclaim this country and their liberty and constitutional rights that are being trampled upon (such as retroactive immunity for the telecom companies).

    July 2, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  22. Jan from Michigan

    The threat of terrorism is low because President Bush and our heroes like McCain have kept us safe.

    July 2, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  23. Susan

    Let's keep our country strong & guarded!

    July 2, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  24. Chut Pata

    All the more reason the pubs should engineer another terrorist attack to keep them in power. I have heard they are spending $400,000,000 in Iran to support extremist Sunnies aka Wahhabies there (same guys we are fighting in Iraq). Once we abandon the Wahhabies in Iran, like we abandoned them in Iraq and Afghanistan, they will turn against us, like they turned against us in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then the pubs can use our agents infiltrated in them, to engineer another 9/11

    July 2, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  25. David

    to those who are posting that we are complacent and that they will strike again when we are not ready....please realize it will be our very own government doing it as a false flag operation. The CIA set up and bankrolled al Qaeda. An interesting fact that no one wants us to know.

    July 2, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
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