- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 19, 2002

ST. PETERSBURG BEACH, Fla. (AP) Americans found ways to channel their anger over the September 11 attacks and dealt more effectively with their emotions than people did after President John F. Kennedy's assassination in November 1963, researchers have found.
Many, however, have yet to regain their sense of security as they balance new terrorist warnings from the government with encouragement that life will "return to normal."
Researchers, who discussed the findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, have examined the effects of the attacks on public opinion from many different angles.
"This is a lifetime marker for an entire generation, the same way Pearl Harbor was in the 1940s and the assassination of President Kennedy was in the 1960s," said Michael Traugott, senior research scientist for the Institute of Social Research at the University of Michigan.
Public opinion researchers realized immediately after the attacks that the traumatic experience demanded scrutiny.
"In the first or second hour after the attacks, the thought dawned on me we should do something like the Kennedy assassination study," said Tom Smith of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. His research compared the public's experience and attitudes measured after the 1963 assassination with those following September 11.
Anger and shame were the dominant emotions four decades ago, but anger was most prevalent after the terrorist hijackings, Mr. Smith said.
After September 11, people found many ways to channel that anger donating to charities, giving blood, and helping the families of victims and survivors.
The military also struck back after the terrorists.
After Mr. Kennedy's murder, "there was an anger that could not be constructively directed. Kennedy was dead, believe it or not; the assassin was dead," he said.
Though some emotional normalcy has returned more than eight months after the attacks in New York and Washington, Mr. Traugott found the public's sense of personal security and safety has not.
"People's views of their safety and security have changed very little across time," said Mr. Traugott, who interviewed people soon after the attacks and again six months later, including many of the same people. Women were more likely than men to acknowledge their continuing anxiety.
"The impact of the attacks has been relatively severe and relatively durable," Mr. Traugott said. "While people are coping relatively well personally, we do have some concern the greater damage may be to civil liberties."
Research has suggested people worried about their personal security are willing to accept more restrictions on civil liberties.
Some researchers are even asking whether the fundamental meaning of popular survey questions has changed for the public. George Bishop, a researcher at the University of Cincinnati, suggested questions that ask about the president's approval, public trust in institutions and the rising influence of religion may have new meanings after the attacks.
The questions on approval and public trust may be linked to the public's need to believe in the government's ability to protect them, some researchers have suggested.


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