- The Washington Times - Monday, April 15, 2013

Americans think more frequently about the possibility of a terrorist attack against the U.S. than they do about the much more likely prospect that they will fall victim to violent crime or be hospitalized, according to a study released Monday by the University of Maryland.

A report published by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the university reveals that about 15 percent of those surveyed had thought about the prospect of terrorism in the United States during the preceding week, significantly more than those who thought about the possibility of hospitalization (10 percent) or violent crime victimization (10 percent).

“Improved understanding of public attitudes can inform programs and tools related to managing public risk perception, increasing effectiveness of pre- and post-event communication by federal, state and local officials, and building and supporting more resilient social networks within and across communities,” report co-author Gary LaFree said.

A large majority of respondents said the U.S. government has been very effective (33 percent) or somewhat effective (54 percent) at preventing terrorism, despite the fact that 69 percent endorsed the view that “terrorists will always find a way to carry out major attacks no matter what the U.S. government does.”

The survey also found that clear majorities of respondents were willing to meet with local police or officials from the Department of Homeland Security to discuss terrorism, data that suggest community outreach programs may be a viable strategy for countering violent extremism in the United States.

The study’s research indicates increased government support for public outreach efforts and community-engagement programs could be beneficial.

Fifty-six percent of respondents had not heard anything about Homeland Security’s “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign, while 85 percent of those who had heard something about the program thought it would be very or somewhat effective.

The campaign is designed to raise public awareness of indicators of terrorism and terrorism-related crime, and to emphasize the importance of reporting suspicious activity to the proper local law enforcement authorities.

The survey asked roughly 60 questions of a statistically weighted sample of 1,576 American adults, who completed it between Sept. 28 and Oct. 12. No margin of error was given.

• Shaun Waterman can be reached at swaterman@washingtontimes.com.

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