“It can’t be explained by presidential preference alone”
So far, we’ve had numerous terrorist attacks on our soil since 9/11, and several stand out as particularly horrific: the Fort Hood terror attack, the Boston bombing, San Bernardino, and Orlando. As a result of the felt increase in terror attacks on our own soil, Americans feel less safe from terrorism.
According to Pew Research, a full 40% of the American public now feel that the ability of terrorists to launch a major attack is greater than it was on 9/11. This is the highest this number has been in 14 years.
Currently, 40% of the public says that the ability of terrorists to launch another major attack on the United States is greater than it was at the time of the 9/11 attacks, which is the highest share expressing this view over the past 14 years. About a third (31%) say terrorists’ abilities to attack are the same as at the time of 9/11, while just 25% say their ability to initiate a major attack is less than at that time.
Pew attributes this growth to . . . Republicans.
The latest national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted Aug. 23-Sept. 2 among 1,201 adults, finds that the growth in the belief that terrorists are now better able to launch a major strike on the U.S. has come almost entirely among Republicans. Today, 58% of Republicans view the ability of terrorists to attack as greater than at the time of 9/11, up 18 percentage points since November 2013.
Only about a third of independents (34%) and 31% of Democrats say terrorists are now better able to strike the U.S. than they were then, and these views are similar to three years ago (32% of independents, 29% of Democrats).
Opinions about terrorists’ capabilities to attack the U.S. have long been divided along partisan lines: During George W. Bush’s presidency, Democrats were often more likely than Republicans to say the ability to terrorists to launch a major strike was greater than at the time of 9/11, while the reverse has been true during Barack Obama’s administration. But this marks the first time in the past 14 years that a majority in either party has expressed this view.
Watch the report:
The Atlantic concurs that partisanship, and not (say) the recent string of terror attacks on our own soil, is the driving force in the rising numbers.
It turns out Americans’ sense of security is tied to partisan identification. Democrats were the pessimistic party for most of the last decade. Republicans, on the other hand, were fairly confident in the country’s security. But as soon as Barack Obama took office, the polarity flipped; Republican discomfort soared, and Democrats suddenly felt a lot safer. Looking at these figures, it seems each side’s sense of security tracks more closely to whether their guy is sitting in the Oval Office, rather than any empiric judgement about the state of the world.
“Republicans are expressing doubts about the ability of the country to handle a terrorist attack under a Democratic president,” said Jocelyn Kiley, associate director of research at Pew. “It reflects confidence in the commander-in-chief—it’s not really a surprise that there’s a flip here.”
The Atlantic notes that the expansive partisan divide on this issue cannot be explained solely by who is sitting in the Oval Office.
But researchers are alarmed—not by the presence of the divide, which will probably always exist, but the degree. Kiley thinks the gap between Democrats and Republicans on security has grown so large that it can’t be explained by presidential preference alone.
“It’s not simply that Republicans are skeptical about Obama’s handling of terrorism in the same way Democrats were worried about Bush,” she said. This marks the first year in the survey’s history that a majority of either party thinks terrorists have the upper hand. And only 29 percent of Republicans think the government is doing a good job in reducing the threat of terrorism, compared to 75 percent of Democrats.
Part of the GOP’s concern about security is definitely linked to their distrust of Obama. Maybe even most of it. But Republican voters are reporting enough discomfort to indicate genuine fear. It’s that kind of fear that makes people think crime is going up, even when it’s going down, or that immigrants threaten national security, when researchers agree they don’t.
It’s interesting that neither Pew nor the Atlantic address the rise of ISIS and the very real, very horrific threat they pose not only to America but to the world. It’s as if they aren’t aware of the aforementioned terror attacks on our own soil or of ISIS videos of mass beheadings, of burning a Jordanian pilot in a cage, and of slowly drowning a “traitor” in a cage. It’s as if they haven’t heard that ISIS boasts about hiding their “soldiers” in the waves of refugees flooding Europe . . . and America.
“Maybe most” of Republican voters’ concern about security is “definitely linked to their distrust of Obama”? Sure, maybe most of it is . . . and with good reason evidenced by the instability his “lead from behind,” “what red line?!” presidency has inflicted upon the world.
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