Poll: Confidence in Anti-Terror Response Drops

In another sign of eroding public trust in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, confidence in the federal government's ability to respond to a terrorist attack unleashing nuclear or radioactive materials has fallen sharply in the hurricane's aftermath.

At the same time, there's a positive post-Katrina development: Many more Americans (albeit still a minority) now have their own meet-up plan should an emergency occur.

Sampling, data collection and tabulation for this poll were done by TNS.
 

Overall, 52 percent in this ABC News poll do express confidence in the government's ability to respond effectively to a nuclear or radiological terrorist attack – but that's fallen from 78 percent in late August, likely a result of the troubled hurricane response.

In terms of their own preparation, 40 percent now say they have a plan for how family members will communicate, or where to meet, if there's a serious emergency. That's jumped from 26 percent in August. Katrina again seems a likely factor.

In another result relevant to the recent hurricanes, 55 percent think the area where they live could be evacuated in a timely fashion in the event of a terrorist attack or natural disaster. But 42 percent are not confident that could happen – and just two in 10 are "very" confident their area could be evacuated rapidly.

This poll, including a detailed look at Americans' preparedness and concerns about possible terrorist attacks, supports the ABC News series "Loose Nukes on Main Street: The New Terror Threat," airing Sunday, Oct. 9 to Friday, Oct. 14. The series focuses on the security of radiological materials – or the lack thereof. The bulk of this survey was conducted in August, with some questions repeated after the recent hurricanes.

Emergency Preparedness Pre- and Post-Katrina
  Now Aug. 21
Confident the federal government can respond effectively to a terror attack   52%   78%
Family has a meet-up plan in case of emergency   40   26

Security

Terrorism concerns overall are up from where they've been. Just under half, 49 percent, say the country is safer from terrorism than it was before Sept. 11, 2001, well down from its 2003 and 2004 levels. And 41 percent express confidence in the government's ability to prevent further attacks, a post-9/11 low (albeit barely).

If a terrorist attack using nuclear or radiological materials occurred in their area, fewer than three in 10 feel they'd know what to do. Among the rest, half say they wouldn't even know where to turn for information. And in such an attack, or one using chemical or biological weapons, nearly three-quarters think there'd be panic.

Public views seem to reflect a broad sense that "it won't happen to me." While two-thirds are worried about more major terrorist attacks, half as many are worried that they personally may be a victim, and just 8 percent are worried "a great deal" about it.

While those worries have been generally steady since shortly after the 9/11 attacks, confidence in the government's anti-terrorism efforts is down. In late August, before Katrina, 54 percent said the federal government should do more than it's currently doing to prevent another terrorist attack – a majority for the first time since 9/11.

Post-Katrina attitudes were critical of the government's disaster response, helping to push President Bush's job approval rating to a career low.

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