By killing and injuring thousands of people and laying bare an unprecedented new dimension of American vulnerability, the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon seem destined to provoke changes of seismic proportions in U.S. public attitudes.
To take a look at how these events may shift public perception and outlook, American Demographics interviewed 24 historians, economists, psychologists, sociologists and public opinion specialists. We sent them questions as a starting point, but allowed them to range widely in assessing how the attacks might affect the way Americans think and live. We conducted these interviews in the days immediately after the attacks. At the time, polls suggested widespread support for military action, and indicated that Americans were willing to alter their lifestyles and sacrifice some civil liberties to fight terrorism. The experts we interviewed provided insights into possible changes in public attitudes regarding not only war and civil liberties, but urban life, immigration, travel, law enforcement, government, the stock market and personal safety.
The loss of a sense of security was cited by almost everyone. Many spoke of the attacks as the end of our national innocence, a harsh awakening to the fact that the array of possible deadly threats far exceeds our ability to protect ourselves. “We never had to feel before that everyone is at risk — your family, your children, your neighbors,?? says Alvin Poussaint, psychiatry professor at Harvard. “We have to figure out ways of protecting ourselves and forever being wary that something can happen.??
Among the long-term effects that are particularly difficult to predict are the economic aftershocks. While economists say the uncertainty is harmful, others say that large-scale expenditures, on the military and construction, may enable the country to avert recession. One lasting impact may be that Americans will have more compassion for the struggles of others, says Siamak Movahedi, professor at The Institute for the Study of Violence at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. To Movahedi, terrorism is born of frustration and helplessness. “In the long run, this will breed a more sane and rational foreign policy,?? he says. “[People in the U.S.] won't be able to watch events in other parts of the world without empathy.??
Edited transcripts of these interviews appear below.
BENJAMIN R. BARBER
62, KEKST PROFESSOR OF CIVIL SOCIETY, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND. AUTHOR OF JIHAD VS. McWORLD: HOW GLOBALISM AND TRIBALISM ARE RE-SHAPING THE WORLD (BALLENTINE BOOKS, 1996) AND OF THE FORTHCOMING THE TRUTH OF POWER (W.W. NORTON & COMPANY, 2001).
What is most significant is that this will bring to an end, once and for all, the myth of American innocence and American independence. For two and a half centuries, we've been the city on the hill, the second Eden, protected by two oceans from evils and deprivations and violence. Our national missile shield wrapped America in a cocoon of innocence. This has made clear that the myth is over. This brings to an end the myth of America's exceptionalism. New York is Jerusalem. Washington is Beirut. Pittsburgh is Belfast. We are no different. We're exposed to the same violence and intrusions.
What will be profound is the change in our psyches. Will any of us get on an airplane again without thinking of the airplane that was turned into a bomb?
Whether this is likely to encourage more or less expansive diplomacy is the $64,000 question. There are two possibilities. One is we try to retrieve and revive the myth. We withdraw from more global organizations and act in more unilateral ways. You join us and do it our way. Or we can embrace our interdependence. We can only lick terrorism in collaboration with one another. We will have to wait and see how this crucial question is answered.
LARRY J. SABATO
49, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR AND DIRECTOR OF THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR GOVERNMENTAL STUDIES. AUTHOR, MOST RECENTLY, OF OVERTIME! THE ELECTION 2000 THRILLER (LONGMAN, 2001)
The end of the Cold War fooled Americans. We took foreign policy off the front burner, where it had been since December 7, 1941, and we didn't even leave it on the stove. America turned inward, and we started to believe that the most important thing we had to do was to preserve a silly, imaginary “lock box?? for Social Security. As of September 11, 2001, we are much sadder but considerably wiser. Just as the lessons from Pearl Harbor remained in the collective American mind for almost 50 years, so too will the terror of Tuesday's acts last for decades. Americans are often accused of having memories with a shelf life of two weeks — and that is usually true in the MTV age. But no longer. Not about this. The cost of our lack of vigilance was enormous in 1941, and it is enormous now. We make terrible mistakes, but we learn. My late father, a proud World War II veteran, would recognize both the angst and the resolve of our countrymen today.
Defense spending will skyrocket. But the definition of “defense?? will broaden. It will include much tougher air safety regulations — and probably the reintroduction of sky marshals — perhaps anti-aircraft missiles on skyscrapers, and personal intelligence assets galore. … The Vietnam War unofficially ended September 11. In the American mind, the lesson of Vietnam was the opposite of World War II: We can't afford to be the world's policeman. Terrorism has convinced us finally that we cannot afford not to be.
49, ECONOMIST AND HISTORIAN. CO-AUTHOR OF NUMEROUS BOOKS INCLUDING GENERATIONS (MORROW PRESS, 1991), AND MILLENNIALS RISING (VINTAGE BOOKS, 2000).
Generation Y grew up in an era when older people were degrading big institutions and government, when government didn't control violent factions. This generation sees a vacuum of authority and state power, and they believe that evil comes from that vacuum. Expect this generation to fill that void. The image of American life, which makes America so hateful in the eyes of our enemies today, is one of celebrity culture gone rampant. Americans, especially younger generations, will feel like, ‘You're right, that's not our finest side.’ The less uplifting side of our culture will come under more scrutiny and will be seen as less lacking of consequence. I expect to see a deflation of celebrity culture.
The coming decades will be a time when history speeds up and family and personal life slow down. Suddenly, I expect a lot of things of historical importance to happen and family life to return to the likes of a Frank Capra movie.
In a lot of ways, this generation will be more like the GI Generation than anything else, and an episode like [September 11] will only accentuate this. Each generation replaces the vacuum left behind. As the GI Generation dies off, Generation Y will work to replace what society has lost. Already we can see Generation Y has been extremely interested in the Boomer-produced '90s movies like Saving Private Ryan and Pearl Harbor. They watch these movies and wonder, ‘What was it like when America did big things together?’
53, PRESIDENT & CEO, ZOGBY INTERNATIONAL, A PUBLIC OPINION POLLING FIRM, UTICA, N.Y.
We became a world community on [the] morning [of Sept. 11]. Do Americans feel that the world is less safe? Absolutely. The constantly recurring human interest stories make us bond and make us feel lucky — and guilty — to have survived. But at the same time, it makes us look over our shoulder. This act of war by unknown terrorists is the nightmare scenario we all feared. The perception that we are less safe will be with us for a long time.
September 11 was a defining date for young people. It was to them what Pearl Harbor and the JFK assassination were for other generations. For them, three things happened on that day. For one, we became global human beings. Two, we went to war against terrorism. And three, our sense of personal safety and security was threatened. This will play out politically and culturally for the rest of our lives.
Just as Pearl Harbor had an impact in so many ways, this will too. There will be less interest in high rises and in working in top floors of skyscrapers. But the memory is raw. These implications will be short term. … Cities in general have undergone a revival and will continue to do so, but there will be a reluctance to go to New York and Washington, D.C. It's something that will give pause. The migration will at least be slowed down.
Government is not seen as much of a problem solver. [Confidence in government] will depend on how the government deals with terrorism — not just in the immediate with acts of vengeance. Reducing Afghanistan to a parking lot might feel good in the short term, but … there will most certainly be a debate over the failure of intelligence and airline security. In the short term, people will feel betrayed.
EDWIN G. BURROWS
58, HISTORY PROFESSOR, BROOKLYN COLLEGE, CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK. CO-AUTHOR, WITH MIKE WALLACE, GOTHAM: A HISTORY OF NEW YORK CITY THROUGH 1898 (OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 1998).
The synergy of lower Manhattan will remain. Cities will not change. The rationale or function of big cities is too crucial. I don't think that the destruction of a couple of enormously important buildings will deal a blow to the economy. New York is what it is because it offers the business community something it can't get in the Meadowlands or anywhere else. The economics of tall buildings will also prevail. In Manhattan, people may avoid tall buildings at first, but they will also realize that a plane crash could happen just as easily at a football stadium. After all, it happened at the Pentagon.
There will be a spasm of nativism and anti-immigrant feelings that we have not seen in a long time. Ironically, it may be more intense outside New York City. New Yorkers tend to understand that not all Muslims are Arabs, and not all Arabs are Fundamentalists. We're able to understand those distinctions better than anyone else.
55, ECONOMICS PROFESSOR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY. TEACHES CLASS ON “HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES ON AMERICAN ECONOMIC ASCENDENCY.?? AUTHOR OF NUMEROUS BOOKS AND ARTICLES.
Consumer confidence was going down before this happened. The world economy was already falling into a mini-recession. … Put it this way: more uncertainty is always bad for the economy. It doesn't matter where it's coming from. Previous uncertainties have caused oil prices to increase. Look back to the 1970s. That's the last time we went into a real tailspin. Here, the uncertainty is greater — we don't have a target.
As for the younger generations, all young people think they're immortal. This will be an enormous jolt. They have all been insulated from war. Every generation has to find its own small war to wage. Our undergraduates have the living wage campaign, to win higher wages for college staff. This may put that into perspective.
50, FUTURIST, FIRST MATTER, A THINK TANK, EAST POINTE, MICH.
Here in Detroit, which has one of the largest Arab populations in America, Islamic centers have already been broken into and people were spit on. This is the nasty underbelly of that naïve America, that churning cauldron of scapegoating and racism. If anything, in the community I live in, we should have less of this than other communities. But even here, in the place where people are the most familiar with each other, we're starting to see very ugly behavior. What does this signal for the rest of the country, where people are less familiar?
In times of confusion, people like to have an enemy. In World War II, when striking against the evil enemy, we took thousands of legitimate law-abiding Americans and threw them into concentration camps of our own. … Scapegoating might be avoided if we can move swiftly and decisively enough and can isolate the bad guys. Then we can find an enemy, and then we can deal with the monster.
This will require a permanent change [in attitudes]. And in a way, it's probably a change we should have made 20 years ago. Had we adjusted our thinking earlier, the horrible tragedies in New York could have been avoided, if we had accepted the fact we were vulnerable.
We've remained an uncredentialed citizenry. “Show me your papers?? is not a phrase associated with America, but that's what we may devolve into. What the terrorists want is a breakdown in fundamental trust. They want us to start distrusting each other, and I see no indication that they won't be successful. In a profound way, this will make us more mature global citizens, and if this happens, we will be better global neighbors. If it makes us more aware of who the rest of the world is, and therefore who we are as a people, then some good will come out of this. If it makes us tighten security so something like this never happens again, that will be good.
But none of these outcomes can possibly outweigh the cost. The loss of innocence is the biggest casualty. That's a bill we'll be paying for a generation at least.
61, SENIOR ADVISOR, RAND, A THINK TANK, ARLINGTON, VA. AMBASSADOR TO NATO UNDER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON.
Initially this will change the way people behave in regard to travel — that's the one area that's going to be the most changed. But people will become impatient. I've been in this business a long time, and one of the things I've learned is that societies get inured to tragedy. Society moves on, and if there's not a repetition, they'll say, ‘Why are we going through all of this?’
[Short term,] I think that people are going to be more wary of situations that bring them into contact with traveling on airliners, a wariness about visible [landmarks]. The confidence that will be inspired by new security measures will be very strong. We are going to lock this particular barn door, and people are going to become confident. But in the meantime, other modes of travel will become more popular, and airlines will get hammered.
You might see an increased willingness to go to war, but not over the long term, and not if the body bags start coming home. This isn't like World War II. The threat is different. This isn't a sustained assault on us from Germany and Japan. This is a limited assault on us from people who are disaffected from their own society.
48, PRESIDENT OF LOS ANGELES-BASED HARVARD CAPITAL GROUP, AN INVESTMENT BANK. AUTHOR, BOLD NEW WORLD (KODANSHA AMERICA, 1996).
Large towers like the World Trade Center are an anachronism. These things I regard as phallic machismo, a “my tower's bigger than yours?? mentality. There's no reason anybody had to be in those buildings. With connector technologies such as Internet, e-mail, fax, voice mail, videophones, Federal Express and an attitude shift, things like the World Trade Center are not as important as they used to be. Wealth in the 21st century is created by people networking — people working out of their home offices, working around the clock. Because of this reality, the World Trade Center will not be rebuilt. It was more of an ego, macho kind of architecture, as opposed to something substantive. A second issue is that people might realize that terrorism exists, and that big flashy towers are like a magnet that attracts terrorists like a moth to a lightbulb.
This attitude shift toward the placeless society makes cities less of a necessity. But our gregarious nature will keep us with other people. People don't like to live in isolation. The second reason we have cities is for economic factors. That's where the workers were, that's where the telephone switchboard was, that's where the suppliers were.
We will still have cities. But economic factors, which historically encouraged the formation of cities, are becoming less important. Therefore the engine behind city creation is weakening. As a result, you will see rural property values go up in relation to city property values.
The only way that we can win against terrorism is to sacrifice personal freedoms. How willing are we? Big time. That's what's happening at the airports right now. It's taking a couple of hours to get through the airports. People are saying, ‘You know what? Strip me. Search me.’ People agree to wait two hours at an airport. People are willing to give up their freedoms if they realize the reason for it.
30, FUTURIST, INSTITUTE FOR ALTERNATIVE FUTURES, ALEXANDRIA, VA.
Cities are going to be much more vulnerable to different kinds of crime. This event will bring international and domestic terrorists out of the woodwork. We're going to see our cities disrupted by small groups of people. There will be disruptions in communications, plundering in financial institutions — all kinds of disruptions. It will be unlike anything else we've ever seen. People will be unable to access their banks, or communications. They will experience the loss of power in their homes or neighborhoods, and biological hazards.
We will continue to have high rises; they're very symbolic for us. They represent innovation, technology, industrialization and power — those are a lot of the reasons people [from other nations] hate us. But these high rises are very symbolic of our culture. There will be changes in design. They will have to be very strong to withstand possible threats, as well as be designed to have escape mechanisms, like escape pods, or some other way to get out should a catastrophe take place.
There will be a strong desire for preventive technologies and safety mechanisms even in the home. People are going to want to feel safer and will be willing to spend the money. I think that you will see a small decline in the number of people traveling on airplanes. We don't know what will be next — perhaps we will not be allowed to bring bags on board. Teleconferencing will become more commonplace. Trains and other forms of transportation will become more popular.
This whole situation, people said it's going to bring us together, but I think this is going to tear us apart. There will be great debate over what kind of action we should take next and how to move forward. In one day, we're all so united in the sense that we cry together, but the sentiments that follow will divide us. We don't see the world in the same way, and this can be the driving wedge that separates us.
38, DEMOGRAPHER, GLOBAL BUSINESS NETWORK, A FUTURISM AND SCENARIO PLANNING FIRM, EMERYVILLE, CALIF.
This event will have a huge impact on defense policy and spending and the federal government. It will impact our willingness to go back into deficit spending. As for increased spending on defense, that's probably a given. But there is a really big distinction between the willingness to go to war and willingness to send people into war.
The big paradigm shift is around safety and security — what is safe, what is risk? It's a very hard thing to talk about, but it's a paradigm shift that needs to occur. We will need to accept that we all have some responsibility for own protection; that we can't look to some big protector entity to do all of that. This country is enormous, and individuals will have to learn to protect themselves. It's a positive vigilantism.
65, CO-FOUNDER AND CHIEF TRIAL COUNSEL, THE SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER, MONTGOMERY, ALA. FORMER NATIONAL FINANCE DIRECTOR UNDER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER.
Most people will, for a time, give authorities unprecedented wartime-like leeway to invade their civil liberties. Unless there is another serious incident or proof of one that was stopped in the next year, people will eventually resent this intrusion. I have lived with threats and heavy security for the past 20 years due to our work against hate groups. It's trying at times, almost suffocating, but I appreciate what our security staff and law enforcement do for us.
The fact is, we in America are less safe and the average person [now] feels so. Score a victory for the terrorist. The consequences will range from overreaction by those trying to protect us, to extreme safety measures by the slightly paranoid. Hopefully, we can find a sensible middle ground. Fear is the terrorist's biggest gun. We must not let fear cause us to overreact.
76, CHAIRMAN, PUBLIC AGENDA IN NEW YORK AND VIEWPOINT LEARNING, INC., LA JOLLA, CALIF.
National security hasn't been at the top of the agenda for many years. It slipped to the bottom of the list, instead of being right at the top with the economy. The fall of the Berlin Wall signaled the end of threats to national security. You have this period of about 14 years where national security issues slipped to the bottom of the agenda. They have been forcibly reintroduced. … Law enforcement agencies will probably be given greater latitude to do what they want to do, even when it infringes on civil liberties.
Political changes will be quite far-reaching. [As to our] willingness to put our military and intelligence forces at greater risk, I think that's almost undoubtedly the case. I think it's likely that civil liberties will be infringed in the interest of tighter security. What you have in the U.S. right now is very large groups of people who represent threats to security. The sentiment will not be too delicate in finding out who they are, whether it's electronic surveillance, picking them up on the basis of suspicions, maybe even a kind of semi-racial profiling.
In terms of investor confidence, after a brief period of nervousness, markets may return to normal and may even improve. I don't think that consumers are going to pull in their horns and close their pocketbooks. A Keynesian remedy [stimulus from deficit spending] for the economy has not been available up to now. Large-scale expenditures, from military to construction, may help us get out of the recession. I don't think that consumer behavior is going to be affected as much as political attitudes and behavior.
59, DIRECTOR OF THE BOISI CENTER FOR RELIGION AND AMERICAN PUBLIC LIFE AT BOSTON COLLEGE. AUTHOR, ONE NATION, AFTER ALL: WHAT AMERICANS REALLY THINK ABOUT GOD, COUNTRY, FAMILY, RACISM, WELFARE, IMMIGRATION, HOMOSEXUALITY, WORK, THE RIGHT, THE LEFT AND EACH OTHER (PENGUIN USA, 1999).
I think one area where this event will have an impact is immigration. Americans are in favor of immigration. But they want a society with a capacity to exclude illegal immigrants. American sympathies will go to all those people who were killed. There were Arab Americans in those body bags too. No one is going to discriminate in grief. But I think it's a perfectly legitimate concern: Have we become too lax about enforcement of already existing laws concerning illegal immigrants?
The immigration reform laws that opened us up to immigration in 1965 and subsequently, were never really part of a national debate. No one really knew what the implications would be. The commitment to a multicultural America is very strong. It's not going to change. A great deal depends on leadership, particularly the leadership of Arab American and Islamic churches. They will have to insist that what we have witnessed is not part of Islam.
72, AUTHOR, THE LIMITS OF PRIVACY (BASIC BOOKS, 1999). UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY. SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR UNDER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER.
Civil libertarians argued that the government under no circumstances should have a right to read an encrypted message. But I argued that the Constitution called for no unreasonable searches in the Fourth Amendment. The language on the face of it suggests that there are reasonable searches. Until [September 11], you could tap the phone of a criminal, but not of a terrorist. But as of [September 11], it became possible.
We've always realized that there are two needs: One is the very important right to privacy, but we're always very concerned with public health and public safety. For example, we have sobriety checkpoints. Before this, you went to a screening gate at airports. We always had a sense of balance. In 1972, we introduced screening at airports. Before that time, skyjacking was far more common.
We need protection from attacks on our safety, public safety and public health. I sense that people are heading in that direction, and it's in line with our Constitution and tradition. Americans are edging toward the common good.
The private sector is a different story. It intrudes on privacy not for public safety and not for public health, but to make money. We need to draw a very sharp line between what the government does when it tries to capture terrorists and what, say, DoubleClick does when it's trying to see who buys chewing gum.
46, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH. CO-EDITOR OF THE FORTHCOMING PERCEPTION AND PREJUDICE: RACE AND POLITICS IN THE UNITED STATES (YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2001).
Judging by history, in the short term to medium term, up to two years, trust in political institutions will be dramatically higher. People become more supportive of their system when they face an outside threat. We'll see a more bipartisan Congress. If people perceive that the Justice Department and the CIA are acting competently, their trust will become greater as well. In the long run, problems will arise if there's a large and protracted war.
The embassy bombings in Africa provoked a different response. For one, those were not on American soil. This is an attack against the mainland. The reaction after Pearl Harbor, another mainland attack, was astounding and unprecedented. When we saw the bombings in Africa, it was very remote. We didn't even know where those countries were.
In the U.S., we tend to ignore how people feel about foreign affairs. If you look at public opinion polls, for every 95 questions about domestic affairs, voting and party affiliation, you see five about foreign affairs. After these events, I bet surveys will devote more attention to international issues.
Our opinions will be crystallized in a number of other areas. We will think more about civil liberties, something we think virtually nothing about right now. We'll start to encounter two and a half hour delays at airports. We may also start to think differently about the extent of our military involvement, once it becomes costly. It's easy for us now to support appropriating $40 billion for this. But when it reaches the point where $40 billion seems like a drop in the bucket, support may change. At this point, people are furious, and prepared to do anything. We don't think about lives being lost, sons and daughters killed abroad, retaliation from Afghanistan or intrusions into our civil liberties.
58, MANAGEMENT GURU. AUTHOR OF IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENCE (HARPER & ROW, 1982) AND THE BRAND YOU (KNOPF, 1999).
I've had two people say to me, ‘This is the end of face-to-face business meetings.’ This is an exaggeration, but consider that people have already started doing a larger share of meetings using teleconferencing. We already hate air travel. Those who fly a lot, like me, adore e-tickets and curbside check in, which will disappear. The ability to teleconference with people is going up and up. Because of all these factors, the virtual working mode will become more common.
One other thing that fascinates me is that dislocated Wall Street firms are leasing space in New Jersey, in low rises instead of high rises. I'm a Silicon Valley guy and don't think high-rise compaction centers should be where normal people work. These events will have an accelerating effect, even if the World Trade Center is rebuilt.
Nothing is more important to me after my family than the First Amendment. I'm supposed to give a speech in Pakistan next month. A friend said that I should log on to the Web site Islamic Jihad.com to see what they're doing. I asked myself, am I putting myself onto a NSA watch list just because I looked at this?
Having a bunch of aircraft carriers floating around New York is no help. The military has been talking a good game about flexibility and adaptability, but they are hopelessly unprepared. The way national debates work is that they simmer. Then there's a Pearl Harbor or Kennedy assassination, a symbolic defining moment that changes the debate forever. The current debate over national security fits this model. Fifty thousand missiles held off the Russians, but not some weird guy with a beard in Afghanistan. We are shockingly complacent and arrogant, and I think it's a much-needed wake-up call. I'm not bashing Bush, but you have to be brain-damaged to think that we got attacked because we're the beacon of freedom. At the moment of post-Cold War American hegemony, we are threatened by small people and small states more than ever.
FR. BENJAMIN FIORE
58, CHAIR OF RELIGIOUS STUDIES DEPARTMENT AND HEAD PRIEST, CANISIUS COLLEGE, CANISIUS, N.Y.
People are looking for the clear answers, right and wrong, to give certitude in the time of great uncertainty, when no one knows what will happen next. Although interest fell off on the whole spirituality, angel kind of thing [after Y2K came and went without incident] … all it takes is a small thing to rekindle it, and this is no small thing. I don't know how long lasting it's going to be. I know that the response to prayer, prayer meetings and memorials has been phenomenal.
These events are rekindling a spirituality that has been right below the surface: prayer, formal religion becomes something that people turn to. For some it's going to lead to more regular religious activity [in the future], but it isn't going to do that for most people. Being humans, we slip back to our ordinary patterns eventually.
DR. JOYCE BROTHERS
PSYCHOLOGIST AND AUTHOR.
In my lifetime, I've seen two events that changed Americans' psyche forever. One was when JFK was shot. We went from innocent to perhaps too worldly. The other was September 11, 2001 when we lost as Americans, one of our precious freedoms — the freedom from fear.
Most of us knew at some point after the first World Trade Center and Oklahoma bombings that we were in danger. But it seemed very remote. It wasn't going to happen to us. Now it's very clear that there's nothing we can do to make sense of the danger we face. We've always wanted to have reasons for bad things happening so that we could convince ourselves that if we did the rational thing, we wouldn't be at risk. That's why when a woman is raped, someone may say she was walking down a deserted street late at night, and if I don't do that, I won't be raped. Now there's no way of making sense of how to protect ourselves.
How this will affect us depends on whether we wipe out terrorists. Only then will fears go away, which is why people are so anxious to go to war.
PROFESSOR, THE BOSTON GRADUATE SCHOOL OF PSYCHOANALYSIS. CHAIRMAN OF THE SOCIOLOGY DEPARTMENT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS.
There is an immediate impact and a long-range impact. The immediate impact is fear, anger and depression. In the spirit of fight or flight, we want to fight back, destroy and dehumanize anyone connected to this tragic event. … The long-term effect is our shaken sense of our invulnerability and of thinking of the U.S. as a safe haven.
People in this country have not really experienced such tragedies common in the rest of world, which has limited our sense of empathy with others. … When Americans read about Bosnia or that 500,000 were massacred outside our borders, they saw this as bad news but weren't very affected. The experience of World War II had a major impact on European society, and existentialism in Europe was a manifestation of that change in psyche, which made people more philosophical and spiritual. There's a similarly profound shift here. In the long run, this will breed a more sane and rational foreign policy. People in the U.S. will have more compassion for the experiences of others. They won't be able to watch events in other parts of the world without empathy.
75, PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF SOCIOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY. CO-AUTHOR, HABITS OF THE HEART: INDIVIDUALISM AND COMMITMENT IN AMERICAN LIFE (UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS, 1985).
Any sociologist with any sense of time frame knows that trends go on for decades. Americans have been losing confidence in government for 40 years. Measures of confidence in everything are going down. Some of the people who want to use the analogy of Pearl Harbor are going to be very disappointed. Pearl Harbor led to a genuine national mobilization. This time, you're facing invisible enemies everywhere and anywhere. There's no use building more aircraft carriers. This is going to produce frustration, anger. Even though we squash them here, they're going to turn up there. This cannot lead to the national unity and purpose that Pearl Harbor produced. It's much more likely to lead to frustration.
I think the terrorist attack just leads to a further downward spiral, because you can't use it to create a sense of unity and purpose. It's illusory. You'll see that we're not getting anywhere. We can bomb the hell out of Afghanistan. But what is there to bomb? Where will it lead? This anti-terrorism is not going to give us any sense of national purpose. It's just going to be a drain on our morale.
67, CLINICAL PROFESSOR OF PSYCHIATRY, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL. DIRECTOR OF THE MEDIA CENTER, THE JUDGE BAKER CHILDREN'S CENTER IN BOSTON.
It's like a whole new reality was put on us, adding a new perspective. No longer are we immune to or safe from a new dimension of disaster or attack. Americans often feel invincible. We feel we can attack anyone, wipe out anyone. To have something of this enormity happening on our own turf, with the Pentagon hit, makes us feel a new sense of vulnerability. This will be felt for years.
I expect that we'll see permanent changes in security in airports. If [the terrorists] had gone after military bases exclusively, people would say that's war. This was directed at civilians. So we face something we never had to feel before: that everyone is at risk — your family, your children, your neighbors. As the rest of the world — Bosnia and the Middle East — stays in turmoil, it reminds us of own potential vulnerability. When we read that people in Iraq or Saudi Arabia hate us, now Americans will be thinking, ‘They can get through our borders. They might get to us.’ The terrorists have scored a major victory against us in that they've instilled an everlasting fear in the psyche of Americans and the way we will live.
Americans want to feel safe. They will support any effort to get the attackers. They may tolerate militarism, even if it doesn't meet with international approval, as long as we get these people. Americans won't be as concerned for people who are detained in terms of civil rights if the reason is that they're suspected terrorists.
57, SENIOR RESEARCH SCIENTIST, CENTER FOR POLITICAL STUDIES AT THE INSTITUTE FOR SOCIAL RESEARCH, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN, ANN ARBOR. CO-AUTHOR, ELECTION POLLS, THE NEWS MEDIA & DEMOCRACY (CHATHAM HOUSE, 2000).
In the short term, it's common to observe a rally-around-the-flag phenomenon, which we are seeing now. The rally will last for some time, and will likely continue if military action takes place. In terms of a loss of trust in public institutions, it will take a while for the investigations and reporting of the conduct of these various [government] institutions to affect public opinion. [If it is determined that the institutions did not do their job adequately], confidence could decrease.
GEORGE GALLUP JR.
71, CHAIRMAN, THE GEORGE H. GALLUP INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE, PRINCETON, N.J.
As we've seen, Americans are at their best in a crisis. People are putting aside petty disputes, and we're going to see a period where we might even see a transformation of the human spirit and a religious renewal. No other time in recent American history have people turned their faces so readily to God. I think [this event] will encourage people to reach out above petty disputes and be more loving and forgiving.
This is a more religious time [than during other crises] because of the incredible sense of vulnerability that people have now and the incredible viciousness of the attack. The pure evilness of the attack makes people want to eradicate any evil there is, the evil which can lurk in any heart. Just as evil has a big ripple effect on society, heroism and love have a powerful ripple effect that could even increase the depth of [religious] commitment. This will spur volunteerism, build up the blood banks, cause people to think more globally, and it will cause people, ironically, to be more tolerant of others.
A number of news organizations commissioned overnight surveys after the terrorist attack on September 11. The results reflect heightened emotions, as Americans struggled to process the overwhelming consequences.
In an ABC News/Washington Post telephone poll of 608 American adults conducted on the evening of September 11, nearly 9 in 10 said they're worried about the possibility of more terrorist attacks on the U.S., and nearly half worried that they might be victims of such acts of violence. Although 40 percent of Americans believed the U.S. did not do all it could to prevent the assault, 66 percent were confident that the U.S. government will be able to prevent future attacks, and 90 percent were confident that those responsible would be found and punished. To do so, 9 in 10 supported military action against any groups or nations found to be responsible and 86 percent supported such action, even if it means war. Immediately following the terrorist strikes, a majority of Americans (87 percent) expressed concern that there would be another assault. Similarly, in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, 42 percent of Americans polled by the Gallup Organization worried about copycat attacks.
A CBS News poll was taken on the evening of Tuesday, September 11, with 402 respondents nationwide and on Wednesday, September 12, with 638 respondents nationwide to gauge immediate reaction. There were several discernible changes in public opinion even over the one-day span. Anger was essentially nonexistent on Tuesday, but by Wednesday, more than 1 in 4 Americans said they were angry (36 percent of men versus 19 percent of women). Desire for a military response also increased, with 55 percent of Americans believing the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center will lead to war.
In an online poll taken on Thursday, September 13 — two days after the assault — fully 95 percent of Americans agreed with President Bush that the attack was “an act of war.?? Sixteen percent said they changed or are considering changing future travel plans to avoid airplanes. And many Americans said they support increased security measures for air travel, such as an additional hour of preflight waiting time (69 percent), full body searches (47 percent), full luggage searches (77 percent), FBI database checks (77 percent) and requiring passports for domestic travel (56 percent).
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
What one country anywhere in the world do you consider to be America's greatest enemy today?
|Source: Feb 1-4, 2001 Gallup poll|
THE EBB AND FLOW OF FEAR
Terrorism has not been a top concern for Americans.
Concern about terrorism has risen and fallen over the years, and reached some real lows. In a Harris poll of September 23, 1998, Americans were asked which two issues were most important for the government to address. A mere 4 percent responded “terrorism,?? lower than the perennial loser issue, the federal deficit.
The Pew Research Center for the People & The Press reported in 1996, “few worry about the possibility?? of a nuclear, chemical or biological terrorist attack. In a nationwide survey of 1,500 adults, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates from March 28 to 31, 1998, the Pew Center concluded, “the public is not particularly concerned about any kind of terrorism within the United States.??
The Pew poll also found that only 30 percent of Americans believed they needed to give up some civil liberties to curb terrorism, while 65 percent believed such measures unnecessary. Indeed, the number who believed in curbing civil liberties fell from the previous year, when in a Los Angeles Times poll, 49 percent of Americans advocated giving up certain civil liberties to help prevent terrorist attack. And nearly 3 out of 10 Americans said our anti-terrorism laws were not too strong or too weak, but about right. Furthermore, most likely influenced by the events in Oklahoma City the previous year, more respondents believed that threats were likely to come from inside the U.S. than outside: 49 versus 39 percent.
ATTITUDES TOWARD TERRORISM VARY BY AGE AND RACE
Seniors worry about terrorism far more than those under age 30, while whites worry far more than nonwhites.
|Worry about terrorism|
|A great deal||13%||10%||32%||10%||10%||14%||25%|
|Not at all||39%||40%||32%||47%||41%||39%||24%|
|Greater threat from:|
|Source: Pew Research Center for The People & The Press|
READY TO RETALIATE?
America's last major military actions against terrorism were the 1998 air strikes against terrorist facilities in the Sudan and Afghanistan. In an August 21-23, 1998 poll, three-fourths of Americans approved of these attacks, and of using cruise missiles in future actions against terrorist groups or their facilities. However, when it came to the possibility of deploying ground troops, approval for future action dropped to 66 percent. Support for these actions, as well as actions against Iraq, was higher than support for use of ground troops in Kosovo (52 percent approval in 1999), and for previous use of ground troops in Beirut, Haiti and Bosnia. None of these previous situations is a direct comparison to the current situation, which would be the only potential engagement entered into in response to an attack on U.S. soil.
Americans' fear of terrorism correlates to recent terrorist acts.
A series of Gallup polls, each based on nationwide telephone interviews, show that fear increases in the wake of terrorist acts and then subsides over time. The most recent event with which this September 11 assault is being compared is, of course, the Oklahoma City bombing in April 1995. Following that tragedy, American concern about terrorism heightened, as it did after the first anniversary of that event. However, in the five years after the Oklahoma bombing, concern tapered off considerably, falling from 42 percent who were worried that terrorism would strike them or someone they know in April 1995, to 24 percent in April 2000.
CONCERNS ABOUT SURVEILLANCE
For each of the following measures, please tell me whether you would be a supporter as a way to reduce terrorist acts or whether you think it is going too far.
|7/29/1996||SUPPORT||GOING TOO FAR|
|Increasing surveillance of U.S. citizens by government||45%||50%|
|Implementing random searches by the police of people entering large public events||78%||19%|
|Increasing the presence of uniformed police officers in public areas||90%||8%|
|Giving the U.S. military new powers to aid the police in anti-terrorist activities within the U.S.||76%||19%|
|Source for all: Gallup Organization|