The Death of Osama bin Laden: Confidence in Government Increases, Perceived Threat of Terrorism Does Not

According to results from a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and The Washington Post, the killing of Osama bin Laden has made Americans more confident in both the government’s ability to prevent a possible terrorist attack and the U.S.’s ability to fulfill its goals in Afghanistan. The survey was conducted on May 2, 2011 and polled 654 adults who were chosen through landline and cell phone random digit sampling. There was no significant change in the public’s view about the threat of terrorism in the United States or about the United States’ continued presence in Afghanistan. The survey results show that the vast majority does not think that bin Laden’s death represents the end of the terrorism threat to the United States; 85% of those polled think that the United States will need to take continued military action to reduce the threat of terrorism.
The poll found widespread concern about the possibility that al Qaeda may retaliate through a major attack on the United States. Two-thirds of those polled say they are at least somewhat concerned al Qaeda will attempt a retaliatory attack. A little less than a quarter of those polled say they have a great deal of concern about this.
The public’s confidence in the government’s ability to prevent future terrorist attacks on the U.S has increased significantly. 62% of respondents are very confident in the U.S.’s ability to prevent further attacks; 22% say they have a great deal of confidence and 40% say they have a good amount of confidence. These results show a marked increase in the public’s confidence, which is up nearly twenty percent from the 44% who expressed a great deal or good amount of confidence last September in response to a Washington Post/ABC News survey.

In comparison to survey responses in December 2010, the percentage of people who say that the U.S. will definitely or probably succeed in Afghanistan has increased by 14%. The percentage of people who say that the U.S. will definitely or probably fail in Afghanistan has fallen to 26% from last December’s 39%. There are no significant partisan differences in opinion of U.S. success in Afghanistan; 69% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats say that the U.S. will definitely or probably succeed. Both Democrats and Republicans have shown increased confidence in the U.S.’s ability to succeed in Afghanistan, with a 13% and 20% increase, respectively. The public remains essentially divided evenly over whether U.S. troops should remain in Afghanistan.


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