Most Americans are resigned to the fact that sooner or later, there will be a terrorist attack on a train, bus or subway. But that doesn’t mean the nation is paralyzed with fear, according to several polls released this week.
Nearly six out of 10 of us — 57 percent — believe an attack on mass transit is “inevitable,” and only a third believe such an attack could be prevented, according to a poll released yesterday by the Associated Press.
Yet only 9 percent were “very afraid” and 29 percent “somewhat” afraid that they or their loved ones will be the victims — percentages that have remained steady since last year, despite the July 7 terrorist attacks in London.
A majority, 51 percent, approve of President Bush’s handling of terrorism and his foreign policy, up from 45 percent a month ago and the highest rating in that area since March.
The poll of 1,000 persons was conducted July 11-13.
“I think people are becoming rather hardened to the idea of another terrorist attack. There’s a core of people who worry about it, but the numbers have remained remarkably stable over the last couple of years,” Karlyn Bowman of the American Enterprise Institute, told the AP.
A Fox News poll, meanwhile, had similar findings: 75 percent believe another terrorist attack “causing large numbers of American lives to be lost” is likely in the near future.
Still, 48 percent said the United States is safer today than before September 11; another 54 percent still believe our public transportation systems are safe — with only 11 percent deeming them “not at all safe.”
The Fox poll of 900 adults was conducted July 12-13.
A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll also indicated that Americans acknowledge, but do not dwell upon, terrorism.
The poll of 1,006 adults conducted July 7-10 found that 55 percent said an act of terrorism on U.S. soil was likely in the next few weeks, with 61 percent saying they were confident the Bush administration could protect U.S. citizens.
In a smaller polling sample of 624 persons taken hours after the London attack, 83 percent said they still felt safe from terrorism, though 69 percent agreed it was a good idea to send passengers through a metal detector before they boarded a train or bus.
And what of the British themselves?
Durham University — about 240 miles northeast of London — conducted an international symposium about “fear in the modern world,” just four days after the London attacks, which left more than 50 dead and hundreds injured.
The gathering featured 28 speakers from seven countries — including two researchers from the City University of New York.
The group asked how “popular emotions shaped political agendas,” and examined challenges faced by cities forced to increase their surveillance and security tactics without alarming the populace.
“Fear has greater currency in western societies than ever before. We are bombarded with information about new risks to our well-being and way of life,” said sociologist Rachel Pain, an organizer.
“However, the stereotype of a Britain paralyzed by fear is misplaced,” she added.