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Terrorism


Support for Large-Scale Effort Against Terrorism in General
Support for a large-scale effort to fight terrorism in general, while not as strong as support for acting against the perpetrators of the September 11th attacks, is nonetheless a majority. When it is specified that such an effort would be multilateral and have UN approval support becomes overwhelming, but when it is specified that the operation would be the US acting on its own support becomes a plurality.

In contrast to the poll questions that find support for going after the perpetrators of the September 11th attacks in the high 80s mid 90s percentage range, questions that ask about military action against terrorist targets unconnected with the September 11 attacks show approval levels in the 70s. PIPA found 77% (52% strongly) favoring "using American military force against groups in other countries that have committed international terrorist acts, but were not behind the September 11 attacks," (November 1-4). Fox found 72% supporting "the United States taking direct action against terrorists in other countries, even if they are not directly connected to the attacks on September 11," with 20% opposed (October 17-18). Newsweek found 71% support for "military force against suspected terrorists in countries outside the Middle East, such as Sudan and the Philippines" (October 11-12). [1]

When questions pose a choice between focusing on the perpetrators of September 11th and a broader effort, support for a broader effort can go even lower, sometimes even becoming a bare majority.

In CNN/USA Today polls on September 14-15 and 21-22, those who supported military action were asked to choose between two statements, one saying "the US should mount a long-term war" against the world's terrorist groups, and the other saying "The US should focus on taking military action to punish the specific terrorist groups involved" in the September 11 attacks. On September 14-15, 51% (of the whole sample) favored a long-term war, while 35% favored focusing on the specific terrorists. A week later (September 21-22) this went up slightly to 53% against 33%). [2]

The Washington Post asked whether "the United States should limit its military action only to those groups or nations responsible for last week's attacks, or should the United States mount a broader war against terrorist groups and other nations that support them?" Responses to this question have fluctuated. On September 20 63% chose the option of a broader war (24% limit action), while on September 25-27, this number dropped to 54% (33% limit action). On October 7--the day of the first air strikes against Afghanistan--the "broader war" option registered 71%. [3]

The September 25-27 Post poll also presented a list of US goals and asked whether this was something that "United States absolutely must do, no matter what; something that would be good to do, but not essential;
something that is a lower priority; or something that should not be done at all." The goal to "significantly reduce the number of terrorist attacks against the United States" was endorsed as something the US must do by an overwhelming 91%. However, the goal to "significantly reduce the number of terrorist attacks against other countries, even if those attacks are not directed at the United States" was endorsed by a more modest 58% (good but not essential, 28%).[4]

NBC News polls of September 20th and October 7th (the day of the first strikes) asked respondents what"the objective of a campaign against terrorist organizations" should be. A strong majority (58% on September 20, 61% on October 7) said they favored "Broadening the campaign to defeating, capturing, or killing members of major international terrorist organizations, even if they were not involved in this specific attack" while 31% and 32%, respectively, favored "Limiting the campaign to defeating, capturing, or killing Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network." [5a]

Support for Broader War Highly Influenced by Whether Multilateral

Based on a series of questions in a November 1-4 PIPA poll it appears that solid majority support for a broader war on terrorism--beyond efforts against those behind the September 11th attacks--is only possible as part of a multilateral effort, while support for a multilateral broader war would be overwhelming.

PIPA repeated the NBC question that asked respondents whether they favored "broadening the campaign to defeating, capturing, or killing members of major international terrorist organizations, even if they were not involved in this specific attack" or "limiting the campaign to defeating, capturing, or killing Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network." PIPA found 67% support for the broader option and 28% for the more limited one. Those who said they favored the option of a broader campaign were then asked, "In this broader campaign, if other countries are not willing to participate in a military action, and the UN does not approve it, do you think the US should or should not take military action on its own?" Only 75% of this group said the US should, thus lowering the percentage in support of the broader campaign to a plurality of 50% ready to support a unilateral effort.

Those who favored a limited campaign, or said they did not know how to answer in the original question, were asked the follow-on question: "What if the broader campaign were limited to military actions conducted together with other countries and with UN approval?" In this case 69% of this group said they would then support a broader campaign, thus raising the percentage in support of a broader campaign to an overwhelming 85%. [5b]

 

 

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