Obama Image Unscathed By Terrorism Controversy

  • January 14, 2010

In the aftermath of the failed Christmas Day terrorist attack on a Detroit-bound airliner, the government's ratings for reducing the threat of terrorism have slipped. In addition, 33% now say that the ability of terrorists to launch a major attack on the U.S. is greater than it was at the time of 9/11; that is up only slightly from November but is the highest percentage expressing this view in surveys dating to 2002. The public also has become far more concerned that government anti-terrorism policies fail to protect the country adequately – and far less concerned that these policies restrict civil liberties. 

Yet there is little evidence that heightened security concerns are affecting Barack Obama's standing and image. At 49%, Obama's job approval rating is unchanged from December. He continues to get markedly higher ratings for his handling of the threat of terrorism (51% approve) than for any other issue. And just 22% say his administration's policies have made the country less safe from terrorism when compared with the policies of the Bush administration; that is virtually unchanged from June (21%).

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Jan. 6-10 among 1,504 adults reached on cell phones and landlines, finds that fully 58% say that their greater concern about anti-terrorism policy is that the government has not gone far enough to protect the country; 27% say their greater concern is that the government has gone too far in restricting civil liberties. That represents a dramatic shift from just two months ago: In November, roughly equal percentages expressed concern about national security (40%) and civil liberties (36%).

Read the full report Obama Image Unscathed By Terrorism Controversy on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press' Web site.