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I was in my eighth grade in a small town in Ontario, Canada, when the hallway suddenly got busy. A teacher poked her head through the door, her face turned discolored, and waved our teacher out of the room. Soon after, all seventh and eighth graders – who were considered old enough to understand the gravity of the situation – were being led into a classroom where we were watching a grainy newscast. The first plane had flown into the World Trade Center in New York City. We were sent home early.
There are so few moments in history that the question, “Where were you when you heard the news?” Arises. But the 9/11 attacks are undoubtedly one, and most Americans can answer that question without hesitation. Earlier this month YouGov asked the Americans if they could remember where they were. and 81 percent said they could. In a separate survey Pew Research Center found that 93 percent of adults aged 30 and over can remember.
For the past two decades, polling Americans on issues related to terrorism, and specifically the Sept. a white paper published in August from the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. In a review of public opinion polls since the 9/11 attacks, John Mueller, a senior fellow at Cato and political scientist at Ohio State University, found that public opinion about terrorism and security had remained unchanged for two decades. In some cases, concerns increased immediately after the attacks, then decreased slightly before stagnating for years. In other cases, the concern rates never went down.
“These results are quite surprising as there is reason to believe that worries and fears about terrorism will diminish over time,” Mueller wrote.
Why a 9/11 era political consensus seems impossible these days
For example, Americans still believe that a terrorist attack is likely. A series of The Economist / YouGov polls conducted from 2013 to 2021 asked how Americans rate the likelihood of a terrorist attack in the United States in the next 12 months. Those who thought that an attack had fallen “a lot” or “closer to” likely seldom fell below 50 percent and often rose after major terrorist attacks in the US or Europe. (Every time the responses increased by about 70 percent, a major attack followed.)
Similarly, Pew’s annual survey of political priorities revealed Americans classify terrorism Year after year at or near the top of the list. Still in 2020, 74 percent of Americans said defense against terrorism should be a top priority for the President and Congress, which makes it the main political issue. Even in 2021, when the pandemic shifted priorities, 63 percent of Americans continued to rate terrorism as their top issue, ranking fourth behind the pandemic, the economy and jobs.
Americans also keep saying that 9/11 had a lasting impact on this country. In Washington Post / ABC News polls In 2001, 2002, 2011, and 2021, the proportion of Americans who said the attacks “changed this country forever” never fell below 83 percent. 86 percent said so in a survey conducted last month. What is remarkable, however, is that feelings about whether this is a change for better or for worse have shifted: In 2002, 67 percent of Americans said the 9/11 attacks changed America for the better. That number has since declined, compared to just 33 percent in 2021.
That 9/11 still rests so heavily on our collective consciousness is no surprise. For those of us who have experienced it, we just need to remember that day.
Other polling bites
- The right to abortion comes to the fore for many Americans after the Supreme Court enacted a Texas law that effectively bans abortion in the state. The percentage of Americans who say “abortion, contraception and equal pay” is their top voting interest has increased since the decision was made, so a Morning Consult survey from September 4th to 6th. Overall, 6 percent of voters said this was their main topic after the decision, compared with 4 percent before, while support among Democrats doubled, fueled by a 6 percent jump among Democratic women.
- Canada and Germany go to the polls this month to vote for new heads of state and government and parliaments. In Germany, the center-left Social Democrats lead the poll with an average of 25 percent, ahead of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (the party of the outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel) with 21 percent Politico’s poll tracker. And in Canada, the center-right Conservative Party outperformed current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party with their respective poll averages of 33.5 percent and 31.6 percent Poll tracker from CBC. However, the Liberals are still preferred to win the most seats – although a different minority government is likely regardless of who wins.
- While Americans overall have somewhat mixed feelings about the decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, there is a higher consensus when asked about the Americans who were used in this war. A 17th August-Sept. 2 morning consult the veterans survey of the war in Afghanistan, 58 percent found President Biden’s decision to withdraw troops supported, with 53 percent still supporting the decision even if the Taliban are in control of Afghanistan and 53 percent even if they are a terrorist in Afghanistan Opportunity.
- The decision to get vaccinated against COVID-19 has become an increasingly partisan issue in the US and can sometimes be for some cognitive dissonance between a person’s political identity and their personal health choices: A Harris / USA today A poll conducted between August 27 and 29 found that 11 percent of Americans vaccinated said they would keep their vaccination a secret from some people, and 6 percent said they had no intention of telling anyone. Shy Trump voters are out. Shy Vaxx getters are in.
- After all, we all seem like a bunch of thieves: According to a YouGov poll As of Sept. 9, 58 percent of Americans take these tiny bottles of shampoo with them when they leave a hotel, including 35 percent who say they do so even if they haven’t opened the bottle. Personally, I think that’s fine, but if you steal hotel towels, I’ll judge you. Not because it’s morally wrong, but why would you want to use a towel from 5,000 other people?
According to FiveThirtyEights presidential approval tracker, 45 percent of Americans approve of Biden’s job as president, while 47.8 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -2.8 percentage points). At this point last week, 46.1 percent have been approved and 48.1 percent have been rejected (a net approval rating of -2 points). A month ago, Biden had an approval rating of 50.4 percent and a disapproval rating of 43.3 percent (a net approval rating of +7 points).
Mary Radcliffe contributed to survey research.