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Fifth Anniversary of TWA Flight 800 Crash

Fifth Anniversary of TWA Flight 800 Crash

Majority thinks crash was caused by mechanical failure


PRINCETON, NJ -- July 17, 2001 marks the fifth anniversary of the crash of TWA flight 800 off of the coast of Long Island, New York. The cause of the crash, long the subject of debate, appears to have been an explosion in the plane's fuel tank. Two competing explanations, however, centered on a terrorist attack and an accidental hit by a U.S. Navy test missile.

Over time, a majority of Americans have come to believe that mechanical failure caused the crash. A July 1999 Gallup poll showed 56% of Americans saying mechanical failure caused the crash, an increase from 44% in May 1997. In the July 1999 poll, 14% -- about half the number who thought so in 1997 -- attributed the crash to an accidental strike by a Navy missile. In both the 1997 and 1999 surveys, 8% of the public thought a terrorist attack caused TWA flight 800 to crash.

Survey Methods

Theses results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,061 adults, 18 years and older, conducted July 13-14, 1999. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Now thinking about TWA Flight 800 that crashed over Long Island last year [3 years ago] -- from what you've heard or read, what do you believe was the cause of that crash? Was it [ROTATE CODES 1-3, THEN READ CODE 4]?



1. Mechanical failure

2. An accidental strike by a U.S. Navy missile

3. A terrorist attack

4. Something else

No opinion

99 Jul 13-14






97 May 6-7






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