Following the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., the public’s concerns about terrorism have surged and positive ratings of the government’s handling of terrorism have plummeted. But other attitudes relating to terrorism and security, as well as perceptions of whether Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence, have shown far less change.
The latest national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted Dec. 8-13 among 1,500 adults, finds that since the start of this year, the share of Americans who say the government is doing well in reducing the threat of terrorism has fallen by 26 percentage points – from 72% to 46% – and now stands at its lowest point in the post-9/11 era.
Approval of the way Barack Obama is handling the threat of terrorism also has declined, even as his overall job rating (currently 46%) – and his ratings on immigration, the economy and other issues – is little changed. Just 37% approve of the way Obama is handling terrorism while 57% disapprove, the lowest rating of his presidency for this issue.
Terrorism has reshaped the public’s agenda, both at home and abroad. Currently, 29% cite terrorism (18%), national security (8%) or ISIS (7%) as the most important problem facing the country today. One year ago, just 4% of the public cited any of these issues. And while ISIS already ranked high among leading international dangers, 83% now regard ISIS as a major threat to the well-being of the U.S., up from 67% in August 2014.
Public concerns that anti-terrorism policies have gone too far in restricting civil liberties have fallen to their lowest level in five years (28%); twice as many (56%) now say their greater concern is that these policies have not gone far enough to adequately protect the country