June 29 — A majority of Americans believe it’s somewhat or very likely that more terrorist attacks will be carried out against U.S. targets during the July 4th holiday, according to the latest NEWSWEEK poll. Nonetheless, most say they have not altered their plans for the long weekend.
FORTY-FIVE PERCENT of those polled say attacks against major cities or landmarks during the long holiday weekend are somewhat likely, while 12 percent say they are very likely. While more than half of Americans are somewhat (48 percent) or very (10 percent) confident that U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement agencies would be able to prevent large-scale attacks; about one-quarter (24 percent) are not too confident and 16 percent are not confident at all that the attacks could be prevented. Fifty-five percent say federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies should be consolidated to make the terror fight more effective.
InsertArt(1541894)Most Americans are not willing, meanwhile, to remove the phrase “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance, despite the ruling by a federal appeals court this week that the God references means the Pledge cannot be recited in schools. Nearly half of Americans (45 percent) view the United States as a secular nation in which religious belief, or lack of it, isn’t a defining characteristic, but an overwhelming majority (87 percent) believe “under God” should remain in the Pledge.
Fifty-four percent also think the government should not avoid promoting religion and that political leaders publicly expressing their faith in God is generally good for the country (60 percent). One-third of those polled say such expressions don’t have much effect either way. Eighty-four percent also say that references to God should be allowed in public as long as they don’t mention a specific religion.
On the issue of terrorism, one-third of those polled believe that any future attack would involve conventional explosives, such as those used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings or suicide bombings in Israel. Another 27 percent say the attack would more likely involve chemical or biological weapons, and 12 percent believe a “dirty bomb” that spreads radioactive material would be used. Just four percent say the attack would involve the hijacking of an airplane as the September 11 attacks did, and three percent think nuclear weapons would be used.
Since last fall’s attacks, most people think there have been at least some safety and security improvements at airports and on commercial airplanes (31 percent say some improvements, and 56 percent say a lot), and major commercial and government buildings (43 percent say some, 35 percent say a lot), landmarks (36 percent say some, 34 percent, a lot), and stadiums and sports arenas (40 percent say some, 27 percent say a lot). But opinion is split on security at theme parks, with some saying there have been some (28 percent) or many (11 percent) improvements, but 25 percent saying there have not been many and 12 percent say there have been none at all.
Despite their concerns, however, most Americans say they will not avoid theme parks and other crowded public places like sports arenas (80 percent), nor will they avoid air travel (78 percent) or large cities like New York and Washington D.C. (75 percent). More than three-quarters (77 percent) say they have not changed plans in order to stay close to home either, though 46 percent say they are more likely to fly an American flag this year as compared to past Fourth of July holidays.
While six percent of people polled say they feel a lot less safe, and 18 percent say somewhat less safe, the majority of Americans (60 percent) say their biggest concern these days is not terrorism, but the economy and employment market.
When it comes to giving up civil liberties to fight terrorism, opinion is evenly split, with 46 percent saying the average person should give up some liberties and the same amount saying they should not. Fifty-seven percent of those polled say President George W. Bush’s administration has successfully balanced the issues of security and civil liberties, and his approval rating remains strong at 70 percent. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) say they don’t feel that they have less personal freedom than they did before September 11.
Though Americans are willing to accept some restrictions on their freedoms, 76 percent say detaining people at airports solely because of their religion goes too far; and 57 percent say the same of monitoring private telephone conversations and e-mail. More than half (52 percent) also disapprove of giving the government the power to detain American citizens suspected of crimes indefinitely without review by a judge. But nearly two-thirds (62 percent) strongly favors more restrictions on air travel and most people say they are willing to accept (38 percent) or even strongly favor (41 percent) public libraries giving intelligence and law-enforcement agents access to the names of people who have borrowed books or other materials that might be used in planning a terrorist attack. Forty-three percent strongly favor, and 44 percent say they are willing to accept, ID checks at all workplaces and public buildings.
For the Newsweek Poll, Princeton Survey Research Associates interviewed by telephone 1,000 adults aged 18 and older on June 27 and June 28. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. The poll will be part of the upcoming issue on newsstands July 1.
© 2003 Newsweek, Inc.
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