New Polls: Americans Fear U.S. Government More Than Terrorism

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The Boston Marathon bombings’ aftermath is producing some surprising polling results. For the first time since 9/11, Americans are concluding that the U.S. government is more of a threat than terrorism.

A Washington Post poll of a relatively few 588 adults taken April 17th-18th suggests a sea change among adults who believe government may go ‘too far’ in the war on terror:

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Reinforcing this view is the belief that there will always be terrorist strikes regardless of security measures taken to prevent them:

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A Fox News poll of a relatively few 619 Register Voters (RVs) taken April 16th, just one day after the Boston bombings, shows that fewer Americans are willing to give up personal freedoms to make it convenient for the government to fight terrorism. There is a majority opposed to the ‘sacrifice’ of liberty for security for the first time since the September 11th attacks:

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Interestingly, the Fox News poll broke down the responses by political affiliation:

  • Fifty-one percent of Democrats responded they would give up personal freedom to reduce the threat of terror, compared to 36 percent opposed.
  • Forty-seven percent of Republicans opposed giving up freedoms, compared to only 43 percent in favor.
  • Just 29 percent of Independents were willing to give up freedom, while 58 percent stood opposed.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Fox News poll is evidence that the mainstream media’s attempt to mislead the American public was successful. During the week of the Boston bombing, political figures and media pundits speculated repeatedly on air that right-wing terror groups could be connected to the bombing. The result was a public that believed it, also:

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According to the Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland, the number of terrorism incidents in the United States per year is way down since the 1970s. Coding the last 100 terrorism counts in the U.S. before 2012, which extends back to April 20th, 2004, one finds there were 20 fatalities and 57 injuries from terrorism. Again, we live in a nation of 308 million people, which means that fewer than 0.000001 of Americans in that period were injured or killed by a terrorist attack.

terrorincidentsusEco-terrorism was the most frequent form of terrorism in the period at 30 counts out of 100; while it was responsible for just one injury.

Anti-abortion ‘terrorism’ registered 7 counts and no injuries or fatalities (assassinations are not always a form of terrorism). Racist terrorism counted for 4 attacks and killed 1 and injured 2.

Islamist attacks were coded by the GTD a total of three times, and counted for 16 fatalities and 34 injuries. Since the latest date listed, there was an attack on a Benghazi diplomatic facility on the anniversary of September 11th in 2012, which would make four more deaths. The Boston bombing killed three and injured more than 200.

Anti-government terrorism (excluding one count of eco-terrorism), can be left-wing or right-wing in nature (the individuals and groups are sometimes unknown). Such terrorist attacks occurred 10 times, and killed 3 while wounding 20 in the period.

The case of Joseph Stack flying a plane into the IRS building in Austin, Texas on February 18th, 2010 is illustrative of the hazards of classifying anti-government terrorism. Numerous pundits jumped into the fray to conclude that a right-wing ‘lone wolf’ must have been involved in the attack on the IRS building. Imagine the embarrassment when Stack’s suicide note was released:

“The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.” –Joe Stack (1956-2010), 02/18/2010

In another high-profile case, the Discovery Channel hostage situation, the perpetrator James Lee had mixed motives, including those that can be associated with eco-terrorism. While the Huffington Post understandably wants to disassociate the environmentalist agenda from such fringe extremists, the publication prevaricates about tying Joseph Stack to the ‘tea party’ while dismissing Lee’s support for numerous environmentalist causes. Cherry-picking evidence that confirms biases or to further a political cause should be avoided when possible; but it is de rigueur among mainstream media and left-wing outlets.

After the Boston bombing suspects were revealed to be Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Muslims of Chechen descent, and the motive was confessed by the captured brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to be radical jihadist in nature, trust in the mainstream media must have tanked further. Americans turned to Fox News for breaking news during the week of coverage in much higher numbers than for CNN and MSNBC; in part because it must have seemed glaring that those latter news sources were not doing straight reporting.

The Fox and Washington Post polls do jibe with other recent polling on Americans’ attitudes toward government. A Pew Research poll released on January 31st, 2013 showed that the majority believe the government threatens individual rights:

Overall, 53% of Americans think that the federal government threatens their own rights and freedoms; 31% say it is major threat, while 22% say it a minor threat. Roughly three-quarters (76%) of conservative Republicans say that the government threatens their personal rights, and most (54%) say the government poses a major threat, by far the highest percentage of any ideological group.

While conservatives led all groups in fear of the federal government, 55% of independents shared similar concerns, and 38% of Democrats agreed (including 34% of liberal Democrats). In December 2011, the last time polling is readily forthcoming, the fear of “big government” reached a record level of 64%; far higher than big business at 26% and big labor at 8%. Much of the spike came from concerned Democrats.

Kyle Becker’s fiction novel Envirotopia is on sale at Sony, Amazon and Kobo.

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