Scary news for Bush: We're not afraid anymore

Americans' fear of a terrorist attack is at its lowest since 9/11.

Published June 21, 2005 4:49PM (EDT)

The polls keep bringing bad news for the Republicans, and the new USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll may bring the worst news for the White House yet.

Americans aren't afraid anymore.

The Bush administration has made fear its stock in trade. The White House used fear -- of another 9/11, of a Saddam Hussein with WMDs -- to sell the war in Iraq, and it used fear to get the president re-elected. Remember Dick Cheney's warning about John Kerry? "It's absolutely essential that . . . on November 2nd, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we'll get hit again, that we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States. . . ."

But how do you sell fear when the people aren't buying it? According to Gallup, fewer Americans fear that terrorists will strike in the United States soon than they have at any point since 9/11. Only 35 percent of Gallup's respondents fear such an attack, down from 39 percent in January and from 85 percent in the days after 9/11.

It's not that Americans are suddenly thinking that the Bush administration is doing a great job of protecting them from a terrorist attack. To the contrary, confidence in the ability of the administration to fend off an attack is slipping. While a majority of respondents still say they have at least a moderate degree of confidence that the administration will protect them, 38 percent now say they have little or no such confidence. Only 52 percent of the public is satisfied with how things are going in the war on terrorism, down from 75 percent two years ago.

But the war in Iraq is making the world a safer place, right? That's what the president and his people say, but the public doesn't seem to be buying that line anymore, either. Asked the bluntest question possible -- "Do you favor or oppose the U.S. war with Iraq?" -- Gallup's respondents now line up 59-39 against the war. Just three months ago, the poll had the public evenly divided.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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