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Terrorism Most Important Problem, But Americans Remain Upbeat

Terrorism Most Important Problem, But Americans Remain Upbeat

Trust in government surges; congress approval at record high

by David W. Moore

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Since the terrorist attacks last month, Americans have exhibited unusually positive attitudes, giving record approval ratings to the president and Congress and expressing a level of satisfaction about the way things are going in the country that rivals the highest ever expressed. Trust in government has also surged, with some measures of trust now as high as they were in the pre-Watergate years. This more upbeat sentiment comes at a time when over half the public cites the most important problem facing this country as either terrorism, the concerns about war, or national security.

General Mood More Positive

Two-thirds of Americans (67%) say they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country today, up from 61% who expressed that opinion a few days after the terrorist attacks, and 24 percentage points higher than the number who had that view in the period right before the attacks.

General Mood of the Nation
In general, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time?

This is the highest satisfaction rating since January 2000, and close to the record satisfaction of 71% measured in February 1998, during the height of good economic times. At the end of the Gulf War in March 1991, satisfaction was at 66%.

Presidential Approval Remains at Record Levels

The latest poll shows Bush with a 89% approval rating, the second highest ever recorded by Gallup for a U.S. president, just below the record 90% approval he received last month.

Presidential Job Approval
Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?

Public approval of Bush is high across the political spectrum. Eighty percent of Democrats, 89% of independents, and 99% of Republicans say they approve of the way he is handling his job as president.

Congress Approval at Record Level

The rally effect found for President Bush has extended to Congress as well. The current poll shows that 84% of Americans approve of the way Congress is handling its job, the highest level since Gallup began asking the question in 1974. And unlike presidential approval, approval of Congress has never been as high as it is today. Prior to the current poll, the highest approval for Congress -- 57% -- was measured in February 1998, shortly after the revelation that President Clinton had been having an affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Congress Job Approval
Do you approve or disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job?

Trust in Government

The rally effect triggered by the terrorist attacks is not limited to the president and Congress, but extends to the government in general. As shown below, public confidence in the ability of the "federal government in Washington" to deal with international problems jumped from 68% to 83% since early September, clearly a direct outgrowth of the events of Sept. 11. Trust in the federal government on this measure is now higher now than it was even in the early 1970s, before the Watergate scandal and resignation of President Nixon.

Trust in Government --
International Problems

Now, I'd like to ask you several questions about our governmental system. First, how much trust and confidence do you have in our federal government in Washington when it comes to handling [READ A] -- a great deal, a fair amount, not very much, or none at all? Next, how about when it comes to handling [READ B]?

While trust in the government to handle domestic problems is a bit lower than trust to handle international problems, the level of trust today is still higher than it was in the early 1970s, when Gallup first asked the question.

Trust in Government --
Domestic Problems

Now, I'd like to ask you several questions about our governmental system. First, how much trust and confidence do you have in our federal government in Washington when it comes to handling [READ A] -- a great deal, a fair amount, not very much, or none at all? Next, how about when it comes to handling [READ B]?

Similarly, Americans' confidence in the federal government to handle domestic problems surged 17 points in the aftermath of Sept. 11. The above chart shows a major drop in confidence from 1972 to 1974, after the Watergate scandal had broken (but before Nixon's resignation). By 1976, confidence had not risen. No updates of this measure were conducted between then and 1997, when confidence was about the same level that it had been 20 years earlier (though there could have been some fluctuations in the interim). By the end of 1998, confidence had increased in the wake of better economic conditions, but still below where it is today.

Most Important Problem

For several years now -- since approximately 1996 -- no single problem has dominated Americans' concerns, but the latest poll shows that terrorism -- and related issues of war and national security -- now dominate the public's agenda. About three-quarters of all Americans cite issues related to the Sept. 11 attacks as representing the most important problem facing the country today, including terrorism itself, (46%), fear of war (10%), and national security (8%). Other items include international issues, preserving freedom, and unifying the country.

Economic problems of various dimensions were cited by just 20% of Americans, including 13% who mention the economy in general, 4% unemployment, and 3% the high cost of living. Last month, almost twice as many (39%) cited some economic problem as did this month. Other declines are found in the percentage of Americans who say education is the most important problem -- just 3% in the current poll, compared with 11% last month. Crime and violence also declined from 7% to 1%.

What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today? [Open-ended]

   

Oct
11-14,
'01

Sep
7-10,
'01

Aug
16-19,
'01

Jul
19-22,
'01

Jun
11-17,
'01

May
10-14,
'01

Apr
6-8,
'01

                 
   

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

 

ECONOMIC PROBLEMS (NET)

20

39

34

31

26

31

33

1

Economy in general

13

22

15

14

10

10

15

2

Unemployment/jobs

4

10

9

6

4

6

6

3

High cost of living/inflation

3

1

1

4

3

1

7

4

Taxes

1

2

3

4

4

4

4

5

Trade relations/deficit

*

1

--

1

1

*

1

6

Federal budget deficit/federal debt

*

2

2

1

1

1

1

7

Gap between rich and poor

*

1

*

1

1

1

2

8

Wage issues

*

*

1

*

1

*

*

9

Fuel/oil Prices

*

1

1

2

4

9

1

10

Recession

--

2

1

--

--

*

--

 

Other specific economic

--

--

3

*

--

2

--

                 
 

NON-ECONOMIC PROBLEMS (NET)

85

65

62

71

75

68

69

1

Terrorism

46

--

--

--

--

--

--

2

Fear of war/feelings of fear in this country

10

1

1

1

1

*

1

3

National security

8

*

1

*

1

*

*

4

Ethics/moral/religious/family decline; dishonesty; lack of integrity

6

9

9

9

9

8

9

5

Losing personal freedoms because of war

6

--

--

--

--

--

--

6

Education

3

11

9

10

12

9

10

7

International issues/ problems

3

3

*

2

3

*

3

8

Poverty/ hunger/ homelessness

2

5

3

6

8

4

4

9

Immigration/illegal aliens

2

5

2

3

2

1

1

10

Race relations/ racism

2

2

1

2

3

2

2

11

Dissatisfaction with government/ Congress/ politicians/ candidates; Poor leadership; corruption

1

6

5

6

6

5

7

12

Unifying the country

1

*

1

1

*

1

*

13

Crime/violence

1

7

6

9

9

7

6

14

Poor healthcare/ hospitals; high cost of healthcare

1

5

6

7

6

4

5

15

Environment/ pollution

1

2

4

5

5

3

3

16

Welfare

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

17

The media

1

1

1

1

*

*

1

18

Medicare/Social Security issues

1

5

3

4

3

3

2

19

Lack of respect for each other

1

1

1

1

2

1

1

20

Drugs

*

4

4

6

5

5

6

21

Judicial system/courts/laws

*

2

2

1

3

1

2

22

Lack of military defense

*

1

*

3

2

1

1

23

Foreign aid/focus overseas

*

*

5

1

2

3

1

24

Children's behavior/way they are raised

*

2

2

3

3

4

6

25

Care for the elderly

*

1

1

1

1

*

1

26

Lack of energy sources; the energy crisis

*

1

--

3

7

12

2

27

Guns/gun control

*

1

1

*

1

1

1

28

School shootings/school violence

*

*

*

*

1

*

3

29

Overpopulation

*

*

1

1

1

*

1

 

Lack of money

--

*

2

*

1

2

--

 

AIDS

--

*

*

--

*

--

--

 

Abortion

--

*

1

2

1

1

1

 

Child abuse

--

*

*

*

*

*

*

 

Advancement of computers/technology

--

*

--

*

--

--

--

 

Other non-economic

6

3

6

4

5

6

4

                 
 

No opinion

5

4

7

6

5

6

7

 

Total

108%

125%

122%

132%

139%

127%

138%

                 

Total adds to more than 100% due to multiple responses

             

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,011 adults nationwide, aged 18+, conducted Oct. 11-14, 2001. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±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.

Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?

 

 

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

       
 

%

%

%

(NA) 2001 Oct 11-14

89

8

3

       

(NA) 2001 Oct 5-6

87

10

3

(NA) 2001 Sep 21-22

90

6

4

(NA) 2001 Sep 14-15

86

10

4

(NA) 2001 Sep 7-10

51

39

10

(NA) 2001 Aug 24-26

55

36

9

(NA) 2001 Aug 16-19

57

34

9

(NA) 2001 Aug 10-12

57

35

8

(NA) 2001 Aug 3-5

55

35

10

(NA) 2001 Jul 19-22

56

33

11

(NA) 2001 Jul 10-11

57

35

8

(NA) 2001 Jun 28-Jul 1

52

34

14

(NA) 2001 Jun 11-17

55

33

12

(NA) 2001 Jun 8-10

55

35

10

(NA) 2001 May 18-20

56

36

8

(NA) 2001 May 10-14

56

31

13

(NA) 2001 May 7-9

53

33

14

(NA) 2001 Apr 20-22

62

29

9

(NA) 2001 Apr 6-8

59

30

11

(NA) 2001 Mar 26-28

53

29

18

(NA) 2001 Mar 9-11

58

29

13

(NA) 2001 Mar 5-7

63

22

15

(NA) 2001 Feb 19-21

62

21

17

(NA) 2001 Feb 9-11

57

25

18

(NA) 2001 Feb 1-4

57

25

18



Do you approve or disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job?

 

 

 


Ap-
prove


Dis-
ap-
prove

No
opin-
ion

   

 

Ap-
prove


Dis-
ap-
prove

No
opin-
ion

                 
 

%

%

%

   

%

%

%

2001

       

1996

     

2001 Oct 11-14

84

10

6

 

1996 Oct 26-29

34

51

15

         

1996 Aug 5-7

39

49

12

2001 Sep 7-10

42

44

14

 

1996 May 9-12

30

65

5

2001 Aug 16-19

50

37

13

 

1996 Apr 9-10

35

57

8

2001 Aug 3-5

47

42

11

 

1995

     

2001 Jul 19-22

49

37

14

 

1995 Sep 22-24

30

61

9

2001 Jun 11-17

51

34

15

 

1995 Aug 28-30

30

60

10

2001 May 10-14

49

34

17

 

1995 Jul 7-9

35

55

10

2001 Apr 6-8

55

32

13

 

1995 May 11-14

34

57

9

2001 Mar 5-7

55

28

17

 

1995 Apr 17-19

37

54

9

2001 Feb 1-4

53

32

15

 

1995 Mar 27-29

31

61

8

2001 Jan 10-14

50

40

10

 

1995 Mar 17-19

32

59

9

2000

       

1995 Feb 24-26

35

53

12

2000 Dec 2-4

56

34

10

 

1995 Feb 3-5

38

53

9

2000 Oct 6-9

49

42

9

 

1995 Jan 16-18

33

52

15

2000 Aug 29-Sep 5

48

42

10

 

1994

     

2000 May 18-21

39

52

9

 

1994 Dec 28-30

23

66

11

2000 Jan 7-10

51

42

7

 

1994 Oct 22-25

23

70

7

1999

       

1994 Oct 7-9

21

73

6

1999 Sep 23-26

37

56

7

 

1994 Jul 15-17

27

65

8

1999 Jul 13-14

39

51

10

 

1994 Mar 25-27

29

63

8

1999 Jun 11-13

41

53

6

 

1994 Feb 26-28

28

66

6

1999 Apr 13-14

45

47

8

 

1993

     

1999 Feb 12-13

41

54

5

 

1993 Nov 2-4

24

69

8

1999 Jan 15-17

50

46

4

 

1993 Aug 8-10

23

69

8

1998

       

1993 Jul 19-21

24

65

11

1998 Dec 15-16

42

52

6

 

1993 Feb 26-28

27

54

19

1998 Nov 13-15

41

54

5

 

1992

     

1998 Oct 29-Nov 1

44

47

9

 

1992 Mar 3 ^

18

78

3

1998 Oct 9-12

47

46

7

 

1991

     

1998 Oct 6-7

44

48

8

 

1991 Oct 10-13

40

54

6

1998 Sep 11-12

55

36

9

 

1991 Jul 25-28

32

53

15

1998 May 8-10

44

48

8

 

1990

     

1998 Apr 17-19

49

40

11

 

1990 Nov 2-4

26

63

11

1998 Feb 13-15

57

33

10

 

1990 Oct 25-28

24

68

8

1998 Jan 30-Feb 1

56

35

9

 

1990 Oct 18-21

23

64

13

1998 Jan 16-18

42

47

11

 

1990 Oct 11-14

28

65

7

1997

       

1988

     

1997 Dec 18-21

39

52

9

 

1988 Sep 9-11

42

42

16

1997 Oct 27-29

36

53

11

 

1987

     

1997 Aug 22-25

41

48

11

 

1987 Aug 24-Sep 2

42

49

9

1997 Jul 25-27

34

57

9

 

1986

     

1997 May 6-7

32

58

10

 

1986 Apr 11-14

42

37

21

1997 Apr 18-20

30

59

11

 

1983

     

1997 Feb 24-26

37

48

15

 

1983 Apr 29-May 2

33

43

24

1997 Jan 31-Feb 2

36

51

13

 

1982

     

1997 Jan 10-13

41

49

10

 

1982 Jun 11-14

29

54

17



Q.2/CONGRESS APPROVAL CONTINUED

 

 

 

Approve


Disapprove

No
opinion

       
 

%

%

%

1981

     

1981 Jun 19-22

38

40

22

1980

     

1980 Jun 13-16

25

56

19

1979

     

1979 Jun 1-4

19

61

20

1978

     

1978 Sep 8-11

29

49

22

1977

     

1977 Sep 9-12

35

44

21

1977 Aug 5-8

36

44

20

1977 Jun 3-6

34

42

24

1977 May 20-23

40

40

20

1977 Mar 25-28

36

42

22

1976

     

1976 Jan 23-26

24

58

18

1975

     

1975 Oct 31-Nov 3

28

54

18

1975 Jun 27-30

29

54

17

1975 Apr 18-21

38

48

14

1975 Feb 28-Mar 3

32

50

18

1974

     

1974 Oct 11-14

35

43

22

1974 Aug 16-19

30

47

23

1974 Apr 12-15

30

47

23

 

^ Gallup/Newsweek



In general, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time?

 

 

Sat-
isfied

Dis-
sat-
isfied

No
opin-
ion

   

Sat-
isfied

Dis-
sat-
isfied

No
opin-
ion

                 
 

%

%

%

   

%

%

%

2001

       

1996

     

2001 Oct 11-14

67

29

4

 

1996 Nov 21-24

47

47

6

         

1996 Oct 26-29

39

56

5

2001 Sep 14-15

61

36

3

 

1996 Aug 30-Sep 1

45

50

5

2001 Sep 7-10

43

55

2

 

1996 Aug 16-18

38

57

5

2001 Aug 16-19

48

49

3

 

1996 May 9-12

37

60

3

2001 Jul 19-22

51

46

3

 

1996 Mar 15-17

36

61

3

2001 Jun 11-17

51

46

3

 

1996 Mar 8-10

41

56

3

2001 May 10-14

46

50

4

 

1996 Jan 5-7

24

72

4

2001 Apr 6-8

50

47

3

 

1995

     

2001 Mar 5-7

53

44

3

 

1995 Aug 11-14

33

64

3

2001 Feb 1-4

51

45

4

 

1995 Jul 7-9

32

65

3

2001 Jan 10-14

56

41

3

 

1995 Mar 27-29

30

66

4

2000

       

1994

     

2000 Dec 2-4

51

46

3

 

1994 Nov 28-29

29

67

4

2000 Nov 13-15

58

41

1

 

1994 Nov 2-6

30

66

4

2000 Oct 6-9

62

36

2

 

1994 Oct 22-25

31

66

3

2000 Aug 29-Sep 5

59

38

3

 

1994 Jul 15-17

33

65

2

2000 Aug 18-19

63

33

4

 

1994 May 20-22

33

64

3

2000 Jul 14-16

61

35

4

 

1994 Apr 22-24

32

65

3

2000 Jun 22-25

56

39

5

 

1994 Mar 25-27

35

62

3

2000 May 18-21

55

42

3

 

1994 Feb 26-28

36

61

3

2000 Apr 3-9

59

37

4

 

1994 Jan 15-17

35

62

3

2000 Feb 25-27

65

32

3

 

1993

     

2000 Jan 7-10

69

28

3

 

1993 Dec 4-6

34

63

3

1999

       

1993 Nov 2-4

27

70

3

1999 Sep 23-26

52

45

3

 

1993 May 21-23

24

73

3

1999 Aug 24-26

62

35

3

 

1993 Feb 12-14

25

71

4

1999 Jun 11-13

55

42

3

 

1993 Jan 8-11

29

68

3

1999 May 23-24

51

46

3

 

1992

     

1999 Apr 26-27

51

45

4

 

1992 Nov 11-12

26

68

6

1999 Apr 13-14

58

39

3

 

1992 Aug 28-Sep 2 ‡

22

73

5

1999 Feb 12-13

71

26

3

 

1992 Jul 31-Aug 2

17

80

3

1999 Jan 15-17

70

28

2

 

1992 Jun 12-14

14

84

2

1998

       

1992 May 7-10

20

77

3

1998 Dec 28-29

50

48

2

 

1992 Apr 20-22 ^

19

80

1

1998 Oct 29-Nov 1

60

34

6

 

1992 Mar 20-22

19

80

1

1998 Aug 21-23

63

34

3

 

1992 Feb 28-Mar 1

21

78

1

1998 Aug 10-12

60

36

4

 

1992 Jan 31-Feb 2 ^

24

75

1

1998 May 8-10

59

36

5

 

1992 Jan 3-6 ^

24

74

2

1998 Apr 17-19

58

38

4

 

1991

     

1998 Feb 20-22

64

32

4

 

1991 Dec 5-8

37

60

3

1998 Feb 13-15

59

37

4

 

1991 Oct 31-Nov 2

35

62

3

1998 Jan 30-Feb 1

63

35

2

 

1991 Oct 10-13

39

57

4

1997

       

1991 Aug 23-25

49

45

6

1997 Dec 18-21

50

46

4

 

1991 Jul 11-14

43

50

7

1997 Aug 22-25

50

48

2

 

1991 May 23-26

49

49

2

1997 May 6-7

46

51

3

 

1991 Mar 21-24

52

43

5

1997 Jan 10-13

50

47

3

 

1991 Feb 28-Mar 3

66

31

3

1996

               

1996 Dec 9-11

43

55

2

         


Q.3/U.S. SATISFACTION CONTINUED

 

 

Sat-
isfied

Dis-
sat-
isfied

No
opin-
ion

   

Sat-
isfied

Dis-
sat-
isfied

No
opin-
ion

                 
 

%

%

%

   

%

%

%

1991

       

1986

     

1991 Feb 14-17

54

40

6

 

1986 Sep 3-17

58

38

4

1991 Jan 17-21

62

33

5

 

1986 Jun 9-16

69

26

5

1991 Jan 3-6

32

61

7

 

1986 Mar 7-10

66

30

4

1990

       

1985

     

1990 Dec 13-16

33

64

3

 

1985 Nov 11-18

51

46

3

1990 Nov 1-4

32

64

4

 

1984

     

1990 Oct 25-28

31

66

3

 

1984 Dec

52

40

8

1990 Oct 11-14

29

67

4

 

1984 Sep 28-Oct 1

48

45

7

1990 Sep 27-30

37

58

5

 

1984 Feb 10-13

50

46

4

1990 Aug 30-Sep 2

51

44

5

 

1983

     

1990 Aug 9-12

43

51

6

 

1983 Aug 5-8

35

59

6

1990 Jul 19-22

45

51

4

 

1982

     

1990 Feb 8-11

55

39

6

 

1982 Nov 5-8

24

72

4

1989

       

1982 Sep 17-20

24

72

4

1989 May 4-7

44

50

6

 

1982 Apr 2-5

25

71

4

1989 Feb

45

50

5

 

1981

     

1988

       

1981 Dec 11-14

27

67

6

1988 Sep 25-Oct 1

56

40

4

 

1981 Jun 5-8

33

61

6

1988 May 13-15

41

54

5

 

1981 Jan 9-12

17

78

5

1987

       

1979

     

1987 Aug 24-Sep 2

45

49

6

 

1979 Nov 2-5

19

77

4

1986

       

1979 Jul 13-16

12

84

4

1986 Dec 4-5 †

47

49

4

 

1979 Feb 2-5

26

69

5

                 

^ registered voters

† Gallup/Newsweek

‡ Gallup/CNN/Knight-Ridder



Now, I'd like to ask you several questions about our governmental system. First, how much trust and confidence do you have in our federal government in Washington when it comes to handling [READ A] -- a great deal, a fair amount, not very much, or none at all? Next, how about when it comes to handling [READ B]?

A. International Problems

 

 

Great
deal

Fair
amount

Not very
much

None
at all

No
opin-
ion

           
 

%

%

%

%

%

2001 Oct 11-14

36

47

13

3

1

           

2001 Sep 7-10

14

54

25

6

1

2001 Feb 1-4

12

63

19

4

2

2000 Jul 6-9

17

55

21

6

1

2000 May 18-21

8

45

34

12

1

1998 Dec 28-29

9

52

30

7

2

1997 May 30-Jun 1

10

58

23

7

2

1976 Jun

8

48

33

7

4

1974 Apr

24

49

18

4

3

1972 May

20

55

20

2

4



B. Domestic Problems

 

 

Great
deal

Fair
amount

Not very
much

None
at all

No
opin-
ion

           
 

%

%

%

%

%

2001 Oct 11-14

24

53

17

4

2

           

2001 Sep 7-10

6

54

31

8

1

2001 Feb 1-4

7

56

28

8

1

2000 Jul 6-9

10

48

30

10

2

2000 May 18-21

11

54

26

7

2

1998 Dec 28-29

11

54

26

7

2

1997 May 30-Jun 1

6

45

36

11

2

1976 Jun

5

44

42

7

3

1974 Apr

9

42

36

8

4

1972 May

11

59

26

3

2



* --Less than 0.5%

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