Five Years Later, 9/11 Still Resonates; Eight in 10 Say Their Outlook’s Changed

OUTLOOK -- Nonetheless, a huge number, 78 percent of Americans, say the 9/11 attacks changed their personal outlook -- how they think or feel about things -- in a lasting way.

When asked, without prompting, how their outlook changed, 57 percent cite personal security concerns -- being more safety conscious (27 percent) feeling more vulnerable (18 percent) or feeling more anxious or suspicious of others (12 percent). All other answers are in the single digits, led by six percent who say they appreciate life more, and five percent who are more aware of world events or international issues.

Just one percent describe themselves as mainly more patriotic since 9/11. Indeed, while 84 percent are proud to be Americans, the number who call themselves "extremely" proud is down from 74 percent in 2002 to 60 percent today. (The war in Iraq is a strong factor: Compared with people who support the war, those who say it was not worth fighting are 30 points less apt to call themselves extremely proud to be Americans.)

Religiosity does not appear to have been affected. Among those who report a lasting change in their outlook, just one percent volunteer that they've mainly become more religious since 9/11. In another measure, 57 percent say religion is "very important" in their own lives -- almost precisely its average in decades of polling. This number rose slightly immediately after 9/11 -- to 64 percent -- but then fairly quickly reverted to norm. It showed a similar blip at the first anniversary, but not since.

ISLAM -- One change related to religion has been in views of Islam. While they've stabilized since earlier this year, they're considerably more negative than a few years ago. Nearly six in 10 Americans are unfamiliar with the tenets of Islam, nearly half hold an unfavorable opinion of the religion -- and one in three believe mainstream Islam encourages violence against non-Muslims.

People who lack a good basic understanding of Islam are much less likely to view it favorably or to see it as a peaceful religion. Negative views peak among groups including evangelical white Protestants, Republicans and conservatives.

BUSH -- For his part, Bush stands at the 9/11 anniversary with a job approval rating less than half what it was after the attacks five years ago, dragged down above all by the now steadily unpopular war in Iraq.

Bush, however, is in better shape now than he was this spring, as spiking gasoline prices added to his woes. Today 42 percent of Americans approve of his overall performance in office, up from a career low of 33 percent in May. The advance has come mainly among Republicans returning to their president's side as Election Day 2006 draws closer.

While it's a significant rebound, still the intensity of sentiment remains strongly against Bush. Not only do 55 percent of Americans disapprove of his work, but 43 percent disapprove "strongly" -- significantly outnumbering his strong approvers (24 percent).

Times have changed dramatically since Bush's near-unanimous approval in the "rally 'round" effect shortly after 9/11. His rating spiked to 86 percent on Sept. 13, 2001, and to 92 percent three weeks later, a record high for any president in polls since 1934.

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