To what extent is the U.S. public aware of and concerned about the growing support base that empowers global terrorists? More specifically, what is U.S. public opinion about the growing numbers of supporters and sympathizers for Al Qaeda and its allies and increasing anti-American sentiment in many countries, particularly those with Arab and Muslim populations?
Growing support and sympathy for Al Qaeda and it allies
Until the October 2004 Terror Free Tomorrow-Ipsos poll discussed below, only two polls in recent years had examined, in part, U.S. public opinion on growing support and sympathy for global terrorism. In March 2002, Gallup asked: "Just your best guess, how many Muslims do you think admire Osama Bin Laden--all, most, some, only a few, or none at all?" In response, 30% said all or most; 45% said some, and 23% said a few. In October 2001 and August 2002, Pew asked: "Do you think the terrorist attacks are the start of a major conflict between the people of America and Europe versus the people of Islam, or is it only a conflict with a small, radical group?" In 2001, 28% said it was a conflict with Islam; that figure increased to 35% in 2002. In contrast, 63% said it was a conflict with a small group in 2001; that number decreased to 52% in 2002.
These questions did not precisely measure U.S. awareness of growing support or sympathy for global terrorists. Also, Pew and Gallup have not examined this issue since August 2002. Their questions in 2002 did not ask the U.S. public whether it believed that there was growing support or sympathy for Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda or global terrorists. Finally the questions did not ask whether Americans were concerned by the growing support and sympathy for Osama Bin Laden or global terrorists.
Increasing hostility toward the U.S. and Americans
At various times over the past few years and most recently in February 2004, Gallup has asked: "In general, how do you think the United States rates in the eyes of the world?" Gallup has also asked: "On the whole, would you say that you are satisfied or dissatisfied with the position of the United States in the world today?" In October 2003, FOX News asked: "Do you think people living in other countries around the world generally have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the United States today?" In July 2004, Pew asked: "Compared with the past, would you say the U.S. is more respected by other countries these days, less respected by other countries, or as respected as it has been in the past?" It also asked: "Compared with the past, would you say the U.S. is liked more by other countries these days, liked less by other countries, or is the U.S. viewed about the same as it has been in the past?"
Gallup found that a decreasing percentage of Americans felt that the U.S. rates favorably in the eyes of the world, dropping from a high of 79% in February 2002 to 54% in February 2004. Similarly, Gallup found that a decreasing percentage of Americans felt satisfied with the position of the U.S. in the world today, dropping from a high of 71% in February 2002 to 47% in February 2004. FOX News found that 62% of Americans felt that people living in other countries had an unfavorable opinion of the U.S.; whereas, 21% said favorable or mixed. Pew found that 67% of Americans said the U.S. is less respected by other countries, and 59% said the U.S. is less liked by other countries.
These polls reveal that a substantial percentage of Americans, ranging from 46% in the Gallup to 38% in the FOX poll, are not aware of the significant decrease in the popularity of the U.S. and Americans in foreign countries. However, the polls did not specifically ask about hostility to the U.S. and did not focus on Arab and Muslim countries.
The polls also revealed a sharp partisan divide. Gallop said: "Republicans, for example, are satisfied with the position of the United States in the world, by a margin of 72% to 28%, while Democrats are dissatisfied by virtually the same margin. Independents are evenly divided. On all other issues, a similar pattern is found, with Democrats much more negative and Republicans much more positive in their assessments." Pew also found "sharp political differences, with far more Democrats and independents than Republicans saying that other countries accord the U.S. lower levels of respect than in the past." Indeed, 50% of Republican saw no decline in respect; whereas, only 19% of Democrats and 24% of Independents said that U.S. was not less respected.
Business for Diplomatic Action conducted a study in which 900 Americans randomly selected in 9 cities were shown a videotape of people from foreign countries expressing concerns about the U.S. When presented with this evidence of anti-Americanism, only 1 in 10 people said that the U.S. should do something about it.
Other than the Terror Free Tomorrow-Ipsos poll discussed below, only Pew has polled U.S. public concern about growing anti-U.S. sentiment in foreign countries. During the July 2004 Pew poll, those who said that the U.S. was less respected were asked: "Do you think less respect for America is a major problem, a minor problem or not a problem at all?" Similarly, those who said that the U.S. was less liked were asked: "Do you think this is a major problem, a minor problem or not a problem at all?"
Of the 67% that recognized a drop in respect, 43% said the decline represented a major problem; whereas, 23% said it was not a major problem. Altogether, 57% either did not see the decline to be a major problem or did not realize that a decline had occurred. Similarly, of the 59% who said that the U.S. was less liked, 42% said the drop in popularity was a major problem; in contrast, 17% said it was not a major problem. In total, 58% either did not feel that decline in popularity was a major problem or did not feel that the U.S. has suffered a loss of popularity.
In breaking out the results, Pew said that "politically, Republicans (and Bush voters) are divided over whether the decline in America's respect is a major problem, while solid majorities of Democrats (and Kerry voters) believe that it is." More precisely, of the 46% of Republicans who saw a drop in respect, 22% saw the drop as a major problem, and 24% saw the drop as not major. Altogether, 74% of Republicans either did not see the drop a major problem or did not feel that a drop had occurred. In contrast, of the 80% of Democrats who saw a drop, 56% saw the drop a major problem, and 24% did not. Altogether, 44% of Democrats either did not see the drop as a major problem or did not feel that a drop had occurred.
Terror Free Tomorrow-Ipsos Poll
The October 2004 Terror Free Tomorrow-Ipsos poll asked: "How important is a support base in enabling Al Qaeda and other global terrorist organizations to continue their activities?" In response, 76% said it was important; whereas, 13% said it was not important. A separate group was asked: "To attract new recruits, raise money and carry out attacks, Al Qaeda and other global terrorist groups need a support base. This support base is made up of individuals who provide active assistance, passive sympathizers who agree with the terrorists' goals, and public opinion that is hostile to the United States. How important is undermining the support base for global terrorists like Al Qaeda to prevent terrorist attacks against the United States." In response, 94% said it was important, including 81% who said it was very important.
In contrast to the Pew and Gallup polls showing a sharp partisan divide, the Terror Free Tomorrow-Ipsos results were "shared by people across generations, political views, and in all regions of countries." Thus, linking sympathy and support for Al Qaeda and anti-Americanism to the war on terror is a very effective way to persuade Americans, including Republicans, Democrats and Independents, that they should care about foreign public opinion.