Archive for Thursday, April 22, 2004

Poll finds worry in U.S. that terrorists are winning

April 22, 2004

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— Half of Americans have concerns that terrorists might be winning the war on terrorism, and one in five feels strongly that way, according to an Associated Press poll that found many people pessimistic about their security.

Fears about an attack against this country are high. Two-thirds in the poll said it was likely terrorists would strike before the November presidential and congressional elections. And a third said it was likely there would be an attack at one of the political conventions this summer.

More than 30 months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, two-thirds of Americans acknowledge some concern that terrorists may be recruiting faster than the United States can keep up. A third of those polled feel strongly this is the case, and another third say they have at least some worries.

"Terrorists are winning the war for the hearts and minds of the people in the Mideast," said Christine Wyatt, a 52-year-old church deacon in Clarkston, Mich.

Fears about the war on terrorism may be fueled by growing worries about the conflict in Iraq, which has been described by the Bush administration as a front line of the war on terror.

Those who think the military action in Iraq has increased the long-term risk of terrorism in the United States have increased from 40 percent in December to 54 percent now, according to the poll, conducted for the AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs.

The people who say the Bush administration made the right decision to go to war in Iraq, 48 percent, are now about even with those who think the administration made a mistake, 49 percent. In December, two-thirds said the administration made the right decision.

Doubts about the war on terrorism are higher among women, older Americans, people who make lower incomes and people with less than a high school education, according to the poll.

Others say the terror threat is receding after two and a half years without another attack.

"I don't think they're winning the war, but they're sure putting the fear of God in some countries," said Robert Slivinski, a 33-year-old paramedic and firefighter from Woodbury, Conn. "The threat has decreased since 9-11. We're keeping them at bay."

The AP-Ipsos poll, released Wednesday at The Associated Press annual meeting, found:

  • Half feel that, in some measure, the terrorists might be winning the war on terrorism. One in five in the poll feels strongly the terrorists are winning, while an additional 30 percent say there is at least "a little truth" to that statement.
  • More than a third say they have less faith in government's ability to protect them, and an additional fourth say there's at least some truth to that idea.
  • Nearly half feel strongly they are more pessimistic about the possibility of there ever being peace in the world, while an additional fourth say there may be some truth to that.

"I think we're twitching on the edge of Armageddon; a lot of people I work with feel the same way," said Michael Miller, a 49-year-old software tester from Las Cruces, N.M. He rejected the idea that terrorists are winning the fight, but he added, "They're not losing it, either."

Despite the widespread anxiety, many reject the notion of terrorists winning as unthinkable.

"I believe their cause is evil," said Cheryl Taylor, a 56-year-old teacher from Waterloo, Iowa. "I don't believe evil will win; I know it won't. I cling to the other hope."

The AP-Ipsos poll of 1,001 adults was taken April 5-7 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The Iraq questions were asked again April 16-18.

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