Friday, September 12, 2008

54% Say U.S. Has Changed for the Worse Since 9/11

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With the seventh anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks this week, over half of Americans (54%) still believe the country has changed for the worse since the events of that day, but this marks the first time the number has fallen in over six years.

Twenty-four percent (24%) say the change has been for the better, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. See full demographic crosstabs.

Forty-nine percent (49%) of Americans say the world would be a better place if other countries became more like the United States. That’s down from 54% a year ago. Just 19% say the world would be a worse place if other countries emulated America, roughly the same number as in September 2007.

Republicans by a two-to-one margin over Democrats believe America is a role model for other countries. Democrats were slightly more positive a year ago. Last year at this time 59% felt America had changed for the worse, compared to 54% in 2006.

Six weeks after the terrorist attacks, 57% told Rasmussen Reports the nation had changed for the better. By January 2002, 61% felt that way, but the number has been falling ever since. By September 2007, only 21% of Americans believed America had changed for the better.

This year’s changes come amidst growing voter confidence that the United States is winning both the war on terror and the war in Iraq. (Want a free daily e-mail update on our latest results? If it's in the news, it's in our polls.)

Seventy-three percent (73%) of Democrats feel the change in America since September 11 has been for the worse compared to 33% of Republicans. By contrast, 41% of GOP voters think the change has been for the better versus just 10% of Democrats. Unaffiliated voters by a 51% to 23% margin believe the change has been for the worse. These numbers are perhaps a reflection of election year politics since both Republicans and unaffiliated voters are more optimistic about the change than a year ago, but Democrats are slightly more pessimistic.

Voters are nearly evenly divided on whether America is a safer place today than it was before the 9/11 attacks. These numbers have remained consistent through months of surveys.

Sixty-one percent (61%) of all voters think it is at least somewhat likely that terrorists will try to impact the winner of the current presidential contest. Over one-quarter (27%) think it is Very Likely, while only six percent (6%) think it is not likely at all. Republicans are more worried about this than Democrats and unaffiliateds. A year ago, 34% of voters believed terrorist action aimed at the election was Very Likely.

Voters in virtually all categories identify economic issues as their number one concern this election cycle. National security, which was the priority for most voters in Election 2004, now is in second place.
Nearly one-third (32%) now expect the amount of terrorism in the world to increase when U.S. forces leave Iraq. Twenty-two percent (22%) expect world terrorism to decrease, and 29% think it will stay about the same. These findings are largely unchanged from a year ago.

Democrats are now trusted more than Republicans on seven out of 10 key electoral issues, but the GOP holds the advantage on taxes, national security, and the war in Iraq.

In the new survey, 35% say Al Qaeda is weaker today than before September 11, 2001, while 26% believe the terrorist group behind the 9/11 attacks is stronger. Twenty-nine percent (29%) think its strength is about the same now as it was then. See full demographic crosstabs.

The overwhelming majority (76%) believe the group’s head, Osama bin Laden, is still alive, but voters are almost evenly divided on whether his death or capture would make the United States safer.

Although President Bush has earned record low job performance ratings 44% of voters still rate the way he handled the situation following the September 11 attacks as good or excellent, including 27% who say he did an excellent job. Thirty-four percent (34%) say his post-9/11 response was poor. While 54% of Republicans rate Bush’s performance as excellent, an identical number of Democrats (54%) view it as poor. Among unaffiliated voters, 21% give Bush excellent marks versus 35% who grade his job performance as poor. These numbers have held roughly steady from a year ago.

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