The University Record, May 20, 2002

Americans still worried about security after September 11

By Diane Swanbrow
News and Information Services

Clint Smith of executive education and Emily Fox of Waste Management Services sort recyclables on Green Clean Day at the Business School (Photo by Martin Vloet, U-M Photo Services)
For many Americans shaken by September 11, the emotional insecurity continues, according to a U-M survey that is among the first to go back to the same group of people to track changes over time in a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults.

About 11 percent of 613 Americans surveyed in March by the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR) are more shaken now than they were last fall. About three-quarters reported no change in the extent to which the attacks have affected their personal sense of safety and security, while only 13 percent are less shaken by the terror attacks than when they were first surveyed.

“The preliminary findings from this survey suggest that the psychological, social, and political effects of last fall’s events have been enduring,” says U-M political scientist Michael Traugott, a senior research scientist at the ISR who directed the second wave of the How Americans Respond survey. “Despite attempts by the government to assure Americans that homeland security is a priority, most Americans don’t feel any safer today than they did right after the attacks.”

Matthews in her lab (Photo courtesy of U-M Photo Services)
Women were almost twice as likely as men to remain shaken, with about 46 percent of women compared to 24 percent of men surveyed in March reporting that their personal sense of safety and security has been shaken a good amount or a great deal.

Respondents also were asked about a wide range of other personal safety and security concerns. About 42 percent of those surveyed had become more concerned than they were last fall that they themselves might suffer some physical harm, and about 80 percent were more concerned that other Americans might get hurt.

How Americans Respond is an ongoing collaborative, interdisciplinary research project at the Institute for Social Research, funded in part by the Russell Sage Foundation. Social scientists involved in the survey design and analysis include economists Richard Curtin, Thomas Juster, Robert Willis, David Weir and Matthew Shapiro; psychologists James Jackson, Robert Kahn and David Featherman; political scientists Michael Traugott, Donald Kinder, Mark Tessler and Theodore Brader, and survey methodologists Robert Groves, Beth-Ellen Pennell and Martha Hill.


  • 84 percent considered it somewhat or very likely that terrorist attacks or similar acts of violence would occur in the United States in the near future.

  • 69 percent said they were more concerned about their safety when taking an airplane,

    37 percent reported heightened safety concerns while at a sporting event and 22 percent had become more concerned when going to a shopping mall

  • 77 percent thought the chances were 50-50 for a major incident of bioterrorism

  • 90 percent favor increased police presence in public places

  • 70 percent would support a law requiring all adults in this country to carry a national identification card

  • 73 percent say they have a great deal of confidence in the military, but only 16 percent report that level of confidence in Congress, 30 percent in the executive branch, 34 percent in organized religion, and 11 percent in major U.S. companies

  • 30 percent said they had felt depressed during the past week, compared to about 52 percent last fall

  • 37 percent of women and 26 percent of men

    report spending more time with their families and about 18 percent are spending more time with their friends