Ten years after the attacks of 9/11, Californians approve of the restrictions placed on personal civil liberties and the work of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), saying that they feel more safe and secure today than a decade ago.
Two out of three California voters surveyed in the latest USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll said they are not concerned or only a little concerned about a terrorist attack today. Overall, 67 percent of Californians are not very concerned about a terrorist attack, 22 percent are somewhat concerned and 11 percent are very concerned.
Similarly, only 12 percent of Californians said they feel less safe and secure today than a decade ago. In contrast, 87 percent feel about the same or more safe and secure today, according to the poll, which surveyed 1,508 registered voters in California from Aug. 17 to Aug. 28.
But despite a sense of security, a majority of voters — 55 percent — said the events of Sept. 11, 2001, led to a fundamental change in the way Americans live their daily lives, including 66 percent of Latino voters. Forty-one percent said we were back to business as usual, including 30 percent of Latino voters.
The overwhelming majority of Californians also said the need to combat terrorism has stayed the same or increased. Overall, 82 percent said the need for the United States to combat terrorism has stayed the same or increased, including 80 percent of registered Democrats, 85 percent of registered Republicans and 81 percent of voters registered “decline to state.” Thirteen percent of voters say the need to combat terrorism has decreased in the last decade.
“The war on terror is not a partisan issue. Across most demographics, voters believe that we are safer than we were a decade ago, but there is also a clear view that the fight against terrorism is far from over,” said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics.
Forty-six percent of voters overall said the federal government has struck the right balance in the last decade in restricting personal civil liberties and keeping the country safe. About one-third of voters, 33 percent, said the government went too far in restricting civil liberties, and 15 percent said the government did not go far enough.
Californians also approve of the work being done by those charged with airline safety. A majority of California voters, 53 percent, said the TSA and the Homeland Security Department have done the right amount in the last decade to protect the safety of airline passengers. Twenty-four percent said they had gone too far and 18 percent said they did not do enough.
“The findings on terrorism have to be viewed through an economic filter, but there appears to be a new status quo in which changes have been internalized and accepted,” said Drew Lieberman, vice president of Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, which conducted the poll with Republican polling firm American Viewpoint on behalf of USC Dornsife and the Los Angeles Times.
A majority of California’s Republican voters — 53 percent — said the United States is winning the war on terrorism, and 35 percent said the United States is not winning. Among Democratic voters, 45 percent said the United States is winning and 38 percent said the United States is not winning.
Voters registered “decline to state,” who comprise about 20 percent of the California electorate, were the most pessimistic about the war on terrorism, with 38 percent saying the United States is winning and 43 percent saying the country is not winning the war on terrorism.
Overall, 46 percent of Californians said they believe the United States is winning the war on terrorism, and 39 percent believe the United States is not winning.
Of all issues surveyed by the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll, including health care and the economy, President Barack Obama received by far the highest job approval numbers on terrorism, with 62 percent of Californians approving of the job he has done on terrorism. Thirty-two percent disapprove.
But voters gave Obama no extra credit for killing Osama bin Laden, with voters split 43-42 about whether the death of bin Laden gave them more confidence in Obama as commander in chief. Among Republican voters in California, national security was also a much lower priority than economic issues. Seventy-five percent of registered Republican voters in California said they wanted a candidate who focuses on economic issues such as jobs, compared to 8 percent who wanted a candidate who focused on national security.
Voters in California give Obama and former President George W. Bush about the same credit for reducing the threat of terrorism, with 42 percent saying Obama has done more than Bush to reduce the threat of terrorism and 39 percent believing the opposite.
Obama’s job approval ratings on the war on Afghanistan were lower than his ratings on terrorism, with 41 percent approval and 52 percent disapproval.
Forty-three percent of Californians said the United States should reduce troop levels in Afghanistan more quickly, 34 percent said the U.S. should continue slow reduction of troops, and 17 percent said the U.S. should do whatever is necessary to produce stability in Afghanistan, even if it means not reducing troop levels.
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