The Boston Attacks: Support For Police Actions And The President, Too

April 24, 2013, 1:00 PM GMT+0

(Week of 4/20/2013) The American public gives law enforcement agencies high marks for their work in capturing the suspects in Monday’s Boston Marathon attacks: in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, eight in ten approve of the way law enforcement agencies acted, and only 9% disapprove.

The support for law enforcement actions is across-the-board; all groups have high levels of approval.

Americans were especially attentive to the Marathon attacks: more than eight in ten followed the stories about them closely, with 38% saying they followed them “very” closely. Just 2% were unattentive to the news about the attacks.

And when it comes to the reponse of President Barack Obama, most Americans also approve. While overall approval ratings of the President have been closely divided, and remain that way (in this week’s poll, 48% approve and 46% disapprove), his handling of the Boston Marathon attacks and follow up gets twice as much approval as disapproval: 53% approve his handling of the attacks, while 26% disapprove.

Americans usually rally around presidents in times of crisis; even many who ordinarily disapprove of presidential performance are less willing to express dissatisfaction when the nation may be in trouble. And criticism is distinctly partisan. All demographic groups approve of the president’s handling of the crisis, but political differences remain. 58% of Republicans disapprove of the President’s performance; just 26% approve.

The positive assessment of Barack Obama’s handling of this specific case appears not to have affected overall views of the President’s handling of the general issue of terrorism, however. In this week’s poll, 44% approve of the way President Obama is handling terrorism, while 40% disapprove, not much different from his rating on this issue last week, before Monday’s attacks.

Approval of the President’s handling of terrorism spiked dramatically after the killing of Obama bin Laden nearly two years ago; it has slipped some since then. However, it continues to be more positive than not.

In fact, Americans view the current President and his immediate predecessor similarly when it comes to what each accomplished in the battle against terrorism. Similar numbers think each man made the country less safe from terrorism as say each President made the country more safe.

In 2009, Americans rated George W. Bush better than Barack Obama when it came to making the country safe from terrorism. Of course, as in all assessments of recent Presidents, partisanship had a large effect then, and a large effect now, on how people rate each Administration.

Both Presidents Obama and Bush might claim some success in the fight against terrorism: 43% of Americans now say that the U.S. is more safe from terrorism than it was in 2001; significantly fewer (19%) view the country as less safe. But this is not a vindication for either party: just about the same percentage say the Democrats and Republicans would do a better job in preventing terrorist attacks. 49% say there is no difference between the parties when it comes to protecting the country from terrorism.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here

Photo source: Press Association