Perhaps the biggest challenge in the War on Terror is that the further we get from Sept. 11, the less seriously Americans will take the terrorist threat. This is potentially dangerous because the less concerned Americans are about terrorism, the less supportive they will be of measures to protect against terrorist attacks. And this is precisely what our enemies are banking on.
In an attempt to get some sense of the pulse of the nation, I looked at post 9/11 trends in the Gallup Poll, which each month asks Americans the open-ended question, “What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?” In Oct. 2001, the first such poll taken after the Sept. 11 attacks, 47 percent of Americans answered ‘terrorism.’ In this month’s poll, only 6 percent did. It trailed Iraq (25%), Immigration (19%) Oil Prices (11%) Economy in general (10%) and Dissatisfaction with gov’t (8 %). It was also tied with health care, unemployment and education.
I put together this chart that plots out the downward trend, post-9/11, of people identifying “terrorism” as the most important problem facing America:
Note: The trend line is segmented because I couldn’t find the Gallup Poll data for March 2002, March 2003 and March 2005.