Poll: Most Americans Expect "Occasional" Acts of Terrorism

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 23 2013 12:41 PM

Most Americans Have Come to Expect "Occasional" Acts of Terrorism

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A man holds a flag during a moment of silence near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on the one week anniversary of the bombings

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Last week's bombing at the Boston Marathon captured the attention of more Americans than any other terrorism-related incident since 9/11, according to a new Pew poll. But while the attack and manhunt that followed were "very closely" followed by 63 percent of Americans, it wasn't necessarily because they were taken by complete surprise: For the past decade a majority of Americans have believed that "occasional acts of terrorism in the U.S. will be part of life in the future."

That belief spiked from 64 percent before the bombing to 75 percent after, but since 2003, a consistent majority of Americans have believed that we'll just have to live with occasional terrorist attacks in the U.S. from now on. Compared to a year ago, the bombing in Boston has at least temporarily erased partisan and age divides on the issue. Republicans and older Americans were notably more likely to see occasional acts of terrorism as part of life in 2012. But this week, that evened out a bit:

Screen shot 2013-04-23 at 11.23.52 AM
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Interestingly, after the Boston Marathon bombing, researchers haven't seen an increase in worries about future attacks. Twenty-three percent of Americans are currently very worried that there will be another terrorist attack in the U.S., which is comparable to previous years. The poll doesn't define "terrorism" for respondents, so we'll assume that answers reflect public perception of the definition of that term.

The survey also asked about public reaction to media coverage of the attacks (spoiler alert: Americans are much more forgiving of CNN's big mistake than other media professionals seem to have been). Take a look for yourself here

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.

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