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Americans Approve of Proposed Department of Homeland Security

But only one in five say it will be "very" effective in preventing future acts of terrorism

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Almost three-quarters of Americans approve of President Bush's proposal to create a new Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security, although most are not convinced that it will be very effective in protecting the United States from future acts of terrorism. Bush's job approval rating had dropped to 70% just before his announcement Thursday, while a new weekend poll finds it at 74% -- still one point lower than any other reading since Sept. 11.

Strong Support for Bush Proposal

The latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll was conducted Friday and Saturday, after Bush's Thursday-night speech to the nation in which he announced what he called the most sweeping proposal for the reorganization of government since Harry Truman proposed a new Department of Defense after World War II.

Poll respondents were read the following question: "As you may know, shortly after the September 11th terrorist attacks, President Bush created the office of Homeland Security. Now, Bush is proposing that this office be combined with many existing government agencies to create a new Cabinet-level department. Do you approve or disapprove of the creation of a new Cabinet Department of Homeland Security?" The results were as follows:

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

72%

20

8



The president's proposal has the potential to create some dissonance among Republicans and conservatives. While these groups are generally supportive of a strong response to terrorism and also generally supportive of what President Bush proposes, they have traditionally opposed the creation of new government bureaucracies. But in this situation, party loyalty seems to win out, as Republicans and conservatives are more in favor of Bush's proposed new department than are Democrats, moderates and liberals:

 

Approve or Disapprove of Creation of New Cabinet-Level Department of Homeland Security

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

%

%

%

Total Sample

72

20

8

Republicans

84

10

6

Independents

70

22

8

Democrats

59

31

10

Conservatives

79

15

6

Moderates

69

23

8

Liberals

63

27

10



How Effective Would a New Department of Homeland Security Be?

Will the new department make a significant difference in the effort to prevent future terrorist attacks? The answer from the American public is somewhat mixed. Relatively few of those interviewed -- just 20% -- said they thought the new department would be "very" effective in preventing future acts of terrorism. But a majority of the rest -- 55% of the total sample -- say that the proposed new department would be "somewhat" effective, leaving only 21% who can be classified as pessimists, saying that the new department will be "not too effective" or "not effective at all" in protecting the United States from future acts of terrorism.

If the government creates a new Cabinet Department of Homeland Security, how effective do you think this new department would be in protecting the U.S. from future acts of terrorism -- very effective, somewhat effective, not too effective, or not effective at all?

 

Very
effective

Somewhat
effective

Not too
effective

Not effective
at all

No
opinion

2002 Jun 7-8

20%

55

13

8

4



The responses to this question also reflect a partisan orientation: Just 10% of Republicans say that a new Department of Homeland Security will be not too or not at all effective, compared to 31% of Democrats who say the same.

Impact on President Bush

Some analysis of the president's announcement Thursday reflected the hypothesis that the speech was timed to deflect attention from congressional hearings on government preparedness and reasons why the government's intelligence and law enforcement agencies were not able to take advantage of pre-Sept. 11 information to prevent the attacks.

A little more than a third of Americans say the president's motivation for his announcement was to divert attention rather than solely because he felt it was in the best interests of the country:

Which comes closer to your view of why George W. Bush announced the formation of the new Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security? Did he announce it – [ROTATED: solely because he felt it was in the best interests of the country (or did he announce it) to divert attention from reports that the government failed to take action on warnings about terrorist attacks it received prior to Sept. 11]?

 

Best interests

Divert attention

No opinion

2002 Jun 7-8

56%

37

7



Not surprisingly, these responses are strongly partisan. Fifty-five percent of Democrats say that Bush made his proposal in order to divert attention, compared to 40% of independents and only 19% of Republicans.

Our data also show that the president's job approval rating was slipping just prior to the speech, but has recovered some in the days since. The Gallup poll conducted June 3-6, Monday through Thursday of last week, showed Bush's job approval rating at 70%, down from 77% the week before, and the lowest of his administration since Sept. 11. After his speech, Bush's job approval rose to 74%. Some of this type of short-term fluctuation in job approval ratings is normal in a time period in which there is a great deal of activity involving the president, and it may take several weeks to sort out the long-term impact, if any, of the president's sweeping proposal.

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

 

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

%

%

%

(NA) 2002 Jun 7-8

74

18

8

(NA) 2002 Jun 3-6

70

23

7

(NA) 2002 May 28-29

77

17

6

(NA) 2002 May 20-22

76

17

7

(NA) 2002 May 6-9

76

19

5



Bush's announcement of his proposal for the new Department of Homeland Security did not immediately affect the confidence that Americans have in the U.S. government to protect its citizens from future terrorist attacks. There is little significant difference in the levels of confidence expressed in mid-May compared to this past weekend, although the percentage of Americans saying they have a "great deal" of confidence did climb by five percentage points.

How much confidence do you have in the U.S. government to protect its citizens from future terrorist attacks -- a great deal, fair amount, not very much, or none at all?

 

Great
deal

Fair
amount

Not very much


None at all

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2002 Jun 7-8

27

49

17

5

2

2002 May 20-22

22

54

18

5

1

2002 Mar 8-9

24

58

15

2

1

2001 Sep 14-15

41

47

9

2

1



Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 800adults, aged 18 and older, conducted June 7-8, 2002. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±4 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.

Gallup


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