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More Americans fear terrorists are winning

More Americans now wonder if the terrorists may be winning, an Associated Press poll found.
/ Source: The Associated Press

With fears about a future attack running high and anxiety about Iraq growing, many Americans now wonder if the terrorists may be winning, an Associated Press poll found.

Half of those surveyed in the AP-Ipsos poll said they have concerns that terrorists may be winning, and a fifth of those polled felt strongly that is the case.

“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.

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, according to the poll, conducted for AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs.

A third of those polled feel strongly this is the case; another third say they have at least some worries.

“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.”

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

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.

The number of those who think the military action in Iraq has increased the long-term risk of terrorism in the United States have increased to 54 percent now, up from 40 percent in December, the poll found.

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.”

Less faith in government
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 one-third say they have less faith in government’s ability to protect them, and an additional one-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 one-fourth say there may be some truth to that.

As for the election campaign, President Bush has the advantage over Democrat John Kerry on people’s trust to do a better job of protecting the country, 53 percent to 37 percent.

More safeguards
Some people say they’ve taken steps to safeguard themselves and their families in response to the terrorist attacks.

  • Three in 10 say they’ve assembled a kit with emergency supplies like food, water and batteries.
  • Two in 10 say they avoid crowded public spaces like shopping malls and amusement parks.

“I know so many people who are afraid to do things, who have changed their lifestyles,” said Norma McElhaney,a 58-year-old school employee from Mineral Ridge, Ohio. “The last two years, our eighth-grade class didn’t go to Washington, D.C., something they had done for years.”

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.