Americans Feel Safer than in 2001.

May 11, 2011, 12:05 AM GMT+0

Republicans, Conservatives Worry Most about Al Qaeda’s Reaction to Bin Laden Raid

By a 45%-19% margin, Americans believe we are safer from terrorist attack now than we were in 2001; another 28% think our safety level is the same as it was nearly a decade ago, and 8% are not sure.

Neither ideology nor partisanship drive feelings about overall safety:

Democrats (47% say we are safer today), Republicans (44% safer) and Independents (47%), as well as liberals (46%), conservatives (47%) and moderates (46%) are all about equally likely to express a sense of greater safety today.

Geography and income play a much bigger role. People in the Northeast (47% safer) and West (51%) are more likely to express a greater sense of safety, while those in the Midwest (43%) and South (40%) are somewhat less likely. Similarly, most of those with household incomes over $100,000 per year feel safer today (60%), while only 39% of those with incomes under $40,000 and 44% of those with incomes between $40,000 and $100,000 feel safer.

That’s the proportion who feel safer now compared to 2001. When it comes to what people expect Al Qaeda to try in the wake of the bin Laden raid, anticipation is not so sanguine. Almost all Americans (84%) expect Al Qaeda to attempt to avenge bin Laden’s death—5% expect an attempt in the next few days, 79% expect an attempt sometime but not immediately—while just 3% expect no attempt at vengeance and 13% are not sure.

Nor do Americans take lightly the threat of the expected Al Qaeda attempt at vengeance. Almost three-in-four feel that following bin Laden’s death, Al Qaeda is either an immediate and serious threat (28%) or a somewhat serious threat (48%), while only 17% think Al Qaeda is a minor threat or no threat at all, and 7% are not sure.
On this question, ideology and partisanship drive attitudes to a great degree:

Republicans (88%) are more likely to rate Al Qaeda as an at least somewhat serious threat, compared to 67% of Democrats and 75% of Independents. Looking at it another way, only 21% of Democrats rate Al Qaeda an immediate and serious threat, but Independents (29%) are more likely and Republicans (37%) are almost twice as likely to harbor serious concerns about Al Qaeda. Few liberals (17%), a greater proportion of moderates (25%) and many conservatives (37%) rate Al Qaeda a serious and immediate threat. The impact of income, gender and region are in each case less pronounced.

Higher income adults on each coast feel safer now than they did in 2001, but when it comes to concerns about what Al Qaeda will do or try to do in retaliation, conservatives and Republicans are much more likely than liberals and Democrats to express concerns.

Full datasets for Economist/YouGov polls can be found here.