January 11th, 2010
01:53 PM ET
11 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. mms55

    the republicans want us to believe the dems can't keep us safe but thats bogus and they know it.their party didn't do so well in the 8yrs. they were in office and they think americans will forget that i for one will not forget the past 8yrs. and i hope the rest of america never forgets what their party has done to america.i'am proud to say i didn't vote for bush in 2000 or 2004 and i'm proud of that.i saw him for what he was and i'm sorry to say i was vindacated , look at what he and cheney did to this country.

    January 11, 2010 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  2. Mary Jo Boven

    How did you select the people to poll? From ACORN? How can you trust a president who is so obviously subservient to other leaders around the world and is allowing known terrorists to be set free? According to your own reports it was documented that those set free and sent back are returning to the trenches to kill Americans. Does anyone REALLY think about the answers they give when they are being asked a question? I think they are just worried about getting back to Farmville.

    January 11, 2010 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  3. mjm

    CNN polls are the absolute worse polls ever. Not only are they meaningless, but they are inaccurate as well.....not to mention useless.

    January 11, 2010 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  4. billy123

    Gee I wonder how the GOP will spin this one. We all know accoeding to the Republicans there was never and attack on US soil until President Obama was sworn in.

    Does this mean 9/11 never happened?

    January 11, 2010 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  5. Ken H.

    Most american's are confident the Obama the Clown can protect our country? The majority of what American's...liberal idiots? Typical CNN polling.

    January 11, 2010 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  6. JB - NYC

    He's been just peachy so far...

    January 11, 2010 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  7. Carol

    Speaking as one who passed through Amsterdam security on my way home a few days after Christmas, I would certainly prefer the full-body scanner to the full-body pat-down. The Amsterdam screener was quite thorough in touching body parts literally from head to toe, to the point of making it feel quite intrusive. She was professional and I did not take offense, but I do find it hard to believe that the technique could discover something a determined and creative terrorist might carry under heavy jeans or other high-barrier clothing. A full-body scanner would remove that barrier and speed the process as well. Better to have well-trained security personnel focused on reading facial expressions and interviewing passengers than poking around in peoples' socks.

    January 11, 2010 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  8. Just a Mom

    Wait a minute! Is it April fools day? Good one. Who did you poll? Oh yeah, this is CNN!
    Thank you for the first laugh of the day!

    January 11, 2010 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  9. Jeff in Virginia

    The only people who aren't confident that Obama can handle the job are the likes of traitors.

    Dick and Liz Cheney are traitors to this country by Cheney's own definition.

    January 11, 2010 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  10. Mike in MN

    I'm not so sure Obama will keep us safe, I pray I am wrong. Either way Obama fully owns National Securiy now. No attacks in the future and he get the credit for keeping us safe. Attacts in the future and he get the blame for not keeping us safe.

    January 11, 2010 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  11. Concerned Canadian

    America has the biggest military the world has ever seen, a warship in every ocean and enough nukes to destroy the planet. I fail to understand why the United States government is so terrified of a rabble of foreign terrorists – this is not a war, this is the work of a few criminals. Its almost like the politicians want the US public to be irrationally scared to make them easier to manipulate... but , no, surely , that couldn't be the case........ could it??

    January 11, 2010 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  12. eric in Denver

    The piece that is missing is that the 2/3rds are all democrats and they are still blaming Bush for everything bad that happens!!!! This poll is a joke

    January 11, 2010 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  13. SMP

    I have every confidence our President will protect us from the terrorists who wish to harm us, both domestically and internationally.
    The difference is that he will do it lawfully, instead of throwing the Constitution into the garbage, as GWB did.

    January 11, 2010 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  14. MatthewDetroit


    The BOMB did not go off... Otherwise we would have 300 more DEAD AMERICANS...

    And then the clown charges him in a Federal court instead of a MIlitary Court....


    January 11, 2010 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  15. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY


    Stick THAT in your pipe and smoke it! In spite of your never ending/monotonous rabid attempts to shape the debate, to frame the argument, President Obama is seen as competent – BECAUSE HE IS COMPETENT!

    So, even after strenuous/arduous attempts to misdirect America, America remains smarter than the Republican Party.

    January 11, 2010 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  16. Grrr-Awful-O

    Interesting poll results considering the fact that the only thing that stopped that jet from being blown up over Detroit was that the bomb didn't go off. More of an error on the part of the bombers than protection on the part of the administration I'd say. But as long as the majority feel good about it, well, I guess that's the important thing, isn't it (in politics)?

    I do agree that we should start using full body scanners. I'd rather be safe (and get through the airport lines faster) than worry about how I look in some abstract image on a screen.

    January 11, 2010 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  17. polly

    After 911 and Christmas Day, Americans should still be concerned about terrorism. These incidents both had "red flag" warnings that should have raised some eyebrows. It was someone's mistake for not taking the warnings seriously. Christmas Day was luck or the hand of God.

    January 11, 2010 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  18. Dstay

    Another "unbiased" poll done by CNN. Why don't you poll real people sometimes instead of your liberal supporters. The media corruption in our country is only matched by the dems in the WH & in Congress.

    January 11, 2010 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  19. Chipster

    CNN, are you just trying to scare the people at Fox network? No one is going to be able to guarantee that crazy people won't do crazy things. We can have the best security in the world but life simply doesn't come with guarantees. Make the most of it.

    January 11, 2010 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  20. Rob

    Bottom line, if you that concerned over the privacy of these scanners, then DON'T FLY. Take the train. Drive a car.

    I'd gladly walk BUCK NAKED through the metal detector if it meant that it would stop terrorists.

    January 11, 2010 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  21. jack

    Attacks like the Northwest flight 253 will continue until the intelligence community gets it act together on sharing intel.

    January 11, 2010 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  22. mavcal

    Who exactly is it that CNN polls? I have never gotten a call or a survey. No I don't think Obama can handle terrorism. He has stacked his administration with intellectual elitists instead of realists with instincts. He has turned the Oval Offic into an ivory tower and we are all less safe because of this – remember Obama said it himself – it was a failure of intelligence – how ironic!

    January 11, 2010 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  23. Dave

    I have no confidence in him for anything. he has proven that terrorism is not on his radar. he has also proven that he will and has lied about almost everything from the campaign trail. He was in it to get elected and nothing more. Now he is in for a complete government takeover. It is about power and control

    VOT HIM and all the far left Libs OUT!!

    January 11, 2010 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  24. Beverly in NC

    Of course President Obama can handle the security of our nation. It's only bitter old Republicans who think otherwise. Cheney and Bush were the worst protectors of our security in our history. They are now trying to rewrite history and sweep 9/11 under the rug by saying there was no terrorist attacks during their administration! We had more terrror attacks both foreign and domestic under Bush. Republicans know NOTHING about keeping America safe or how to use diplomacy to solve problems. They just want to bomb everybody who disagrees with us. Since they love war so much, why don't we sign up Republicans and their children to go finish fighting the Bush wars. Oh that's right – Bush and Cheney are cowards who hid from military service but are happy to kill other people's children for a giant lie.

    We support President Obama, diplomacy, the Geneva Convention on non-torture, and peace and prosperity for our nation.

    January 11, 2010 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  25. LacrosseMom

    Wow........ finally........ a positive story about President Obama on CNN!

    Of course! Most Americans are a lot more gracious, fair, and sane that the fringe GOP group.

    January 11, 2010 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
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