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Teens and Terrorism: Confidence in Government

by Linda Lyons, Education and Youth Editor

Second in a two-part series on teens' views about terrorism

The most recent Gallup Youth Survey* shows that most teens, 60%, are not overly concerned about becoming a victim of terrorism, but 39% express at least a moderate amount of worry. A similar percentage of teens, 61%, say they have "a great deal" or "a moderate amount" of confidence in the current administration's ability to protect its citizens from future acts of terrorism, while 37% do not express much confidence.

Looking directly at the relationship between confidence in the Bush administration on terrorism and teens' concern about being victimized -- 48% of teens who say they have little or no confidence in the administration are worried that they or a family member will become victims of terrorism, as are 34% of those who say they have a great deal or a moderate amount of confidence in the Bush administration.

Political Influences

Teens' political orientations greatly influence their confidence in the Bush administration's ability to protect U.S. citizens from terror. Eighty-eight percent of teens who say they plan to vote Republican when they are old enough have a great deal or moderate amount of confidence in the Bush administration, compared with just 42% of teens who intend to vote Democratic. Those who plan to remain politically independent fall between the two groups, at 57%.

Other Demographic Differences

Just as teens living in the Northeast worry considerably more about being victimized by terrorism than do those in other parts of the country, the same mindset holds true on the issue of protection by the Bush administration. Just 42% of teens living in the Northeast have a great deal or a moderate amount of confidence in the Bush administration to protect them from future acts of terrorism, compared with 69% in the South, 65% in the Midwest, and 60% in the West.

Bottom Line

It's a subject parents hoped they would never have to discuss with their children. Yet since Sept. 11, news about terrorism is inescapable, and a large number of teens are concerned about it. Accordingly, the American Library Association has recommended five non-fiction books about terrorism, especially for teenagers:

  • Political Violence and Terrorism ed. by Mary Hull
  • Terrorism by Anne G. Gaines
  • Silent Death by Kathlyn Gay
  • Why Do They Hate Me? by Laurel Holliday
  • Caught in the Crossfire by Maria Ousseimi

*The Gallup Youth Survey is conducted via an Internet methodology provided by Knowledge Networks, using an online research panel that is designed to be representative of the entire U.S. population. The current questionnaire was completed by 785 respondents, aged 13 to 17, between Jan. 22 and March 9, 2004. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.


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