Existing survey data do not provide comprehensive baseline information about U.S. beliefs and attitudes on terrorism and counterterrorism. 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.
In this project, systematic survey data was collected from a sample of Americans in response to a range of newly developed survey questions. The survey was developed by two leading survey methodologists, following consultations with a research team of experts who study the dynamics of terrorism, counterterrorism, and community resilience, as well as with practitioners and officials from throughout the homeland security community. The questions were administered to members of a web panel by the on-line survey firm Knowledge Networks, and a second wave of the survey will be issued approximately six months after the first wave to allow for analysis of attitudes over time.
The first wave of the questionnaire was completed, from September 28, 2012 to October 12, 2012, by 1,576 individuals 18 years of age and older. The first section of the questionnaire assessed the salience of terrorism by asking respondents whether they had thought about terrorism in the preceding week, how likely they thought a terrorist attack in the United States was in the next year, and whether they had done anything differently in the past year because of the possibility of such an attack.
The second section of the questionnaire posed questions about how likely respondents would be to call the police in response to various actions potentially related to terrorism and how concerned respondents felt the government should be about these actions. Respondents who said they had thought about a terrorist attack in the last week were more likely than other respondents to say they were likely to call the police in response to the various situations described to them.
The survey then assessed respondents' awareness and evaluation of government efforts related to terrorism in the United States. A large majority of the respondents said that the U.S. government has been very effective (33 percent) or somewhat effective (54 percent) at preventing terrorism; less than 13 percent characterized the government as not too effective or not effective at all.
In a final section of the survey, we asked respondents about two specific programs focused on increasing communication between members of the public and the government on topics related to terrorism.