IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

National unity has taken a hard hit since 9/11

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: George W Bush Addresses Congress
George W Bush gives an address regarding the September 11 terrorist attacks to a joint session of Congress in Washington, on Sept. 20, 2001.Smith Collection/Gado / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — Sept. 11 brought this country together 20 years ago.

But Covid — as well as everything that’s transpired since the 9/11 terrorist attacks — has only torn the nation further apart.

Just look at these numbers from the NBC News poll and other surveys:

In June 2001 — not too long after the controversial Bush v. Gore decision that put George W. Bush into the White House – 43 percent of all Americans said the country was on the right track, versus 39 percent who said it was on the wrong track, according to that month’s national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Then in the same poll after the 9/11 attacks, a whopping 72 percent said the nation was headed in the right direction, compared with just 11 percent who disagreed.

Today, those numbers are almost exactly reversed, with only 29 percent who think the country is on the right track, and with 63 percent who believe it’s on the wrong track, per the Aug. 2021 NBC News poll. (The Wall Street Journal is no longer a partner on the poll.)

Similarly, 34 percent of Americans said the nation was united and in agreement about the most important values, versus 62 percent who said it was greatly divided on those values, according to a Dec. 1998 Washington Post poll conducted during Bill Clinton’s impeachment.

The numbers flipped after 9/11 when a Gallup/CNN/USA Today survey asked that same question in Nov. 2001: 74 percent said the nation was in agreement, compared with 24 percent who said it was greatly divided.

Yet today, when an Associated Press poll asked that very same question this year, only 11 percent said Americans are united and in agreement about the most important values, while 88 percent said Americans said they were greatly divided.

Take this jab and shove it

Adding to this great divide, yesterday we saw President Biden taking STRONG action on the coronavirus — by mandating vaccines for federal workers and contractors, as well as for large employers.

And we saw a strong reaction from the right opposing Biden’s move.

Yet as with many other issues, the GOP/right’s strong reaction was on behalf of a shrinking minority.

As of today, 75 percent of American adults have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly 65 percent are fully vaccinated.

Yes, there’s legitimate criticism that Biden’s strong action should have come much earlier than yesterday.

But the other political angle here is that the GOP is defending 20 to 30 percent of the adult-age public that hasn’t gotten the vaccine.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

279: The number of Covid deaths per 100,000 people in Louisiana, as the state eclipses the deaths-per-capita of New York.

40,763,284: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 152,212 more since yesterday morning.)

660,147: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 3,242 more since yesterday morning.)

377,622,065: The number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 666,933 more since yesterday morning.)

53.4 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

64.5 percent: The share of all U.S. adults at least 18 years of age who are fully vaccinated, per CDC.

52 percent: President Biden’s approval rating in a new CNN/SSRS poll.

One-third: The approximate share of female service members in the Air and Space Forces who say they’ve experienced sexual harassment, according to a new inspector general report.

$2.14 million: The amount Democrats have booked in ad spending in the California governor recall from today through Tuesday’s election, per AdImpact.

$2.05 million: The amount of ad spending Republicans have booked over that time period, after being outspent by a 2:1 margin to this point.

20 years later, 9/11’s significance declines, poll finds

Here’s another set of numbers to chew on:

After 9/11 20 years ago, the NBC/WSJ poll found 75 percent of Americans calling those terrorist attacks the most significant event of their lifetimes, with a total of 96 percent of the public saying it was a significant event.

But according to a new Public Opinions Strategy poll (the GOP half of our NBC News poll), the share of voters calling 9/11 the most significant event of their lifetimes was down to 39 percent, with a total of 86 percent saying it was a significant event.

That’s comparable to the 38 percent of Americans who said that Covid-19 was the most significant event of their lifetimes, with a total of 85 percent saying it was a significant event, per the April 2020 NBC/WSJ poll.

Shameless plug

NBC’s Lester Holt tonight is anchoring a special Dateline at 10:00 p.m. ET on Flight 93. The one-hour broadcast, “Heroes: The Story of Flight 93,” will feature interviews with the family members of Flight 93’s passengers and crew members. For the first time some of the children come together as they honor the lives of their parents and the courage that inspired the world.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Los Angeles is the first major school district mandating Covid vaccinations for eligible students.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer criticized the court’s decision to uphold the Texas abortion restrictions in a new interview where he discussed calls for him to retire.

The Justice Department is suing Texas over its abortion law.

Top Trump allies are wading into the Wyoming House race as Trump’s pick hopes to defeat GOP Rep. Liz Cheney.