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Ten Years After 9/11, Americans Divided on Approaches to Terrorism
Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux,

Where were you during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001?  According to a new survey from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, even if you were only eight years old when the attacks occurred, chances are you still remember where you were or what you were doing.  The report, “Ten Years after 9/11: United in Remember, Divided over Policies,” reveals an America that was profoundly shaped by the events of that day but remains, a decade later, split on whether the country is at risk for another terrorist attack, and what we can do to prevent history from repeating itself.

The report is well worth reading; if you’re interested, you can check it out Pew’s website.  But here are a few of the findings that we found most relevant, especially in light of our new joint report, What it Means to be American: Attitudes in an Increasingly Diverse America Ten Years after 9/11, which will be released next Tuesday, September 6, in partnership with the Brookings Institution:

  • Americans are divided on whether actions by the U.S. prior to 9/11 may have been a catalyst for the attacks: 45% say no, while 43% agree.  Notably, younger Americans are more likely to say that U.S. actions may have inspired the attacks (52% of Millennials agree, compared to 20% of seniors).
  • Only about a quarter of Americans believe that the wars in Iraq (26%) and Afghanistan (25%) have diminished the risk of future terrorist attacks.  In fact, women are far more likely than men to say that the war in Afghanistan has increased the likelihood of impending terrorist violence in the United States (47% of women compared to 28% of men).
  • Six-in-ten (61%) say that the terrorist attacks fundamentally altered life in America, while only one-in-ten say that life is essentially the same as it was before (28% believe that life changed “only a little bit”).
  • Perceptions of extremism among the American Muslim community divides along party lines: a majority of Republicans (55%) say that there is a great deal or a fair amount of support for extremism among American Muslims, compared to 39% of independents and only one third (33%) of Democrats.
  • There is a generational divide on trust in the American Muslim community in general.  Seniors (47%) are twice as likely as Millennials (24%) to say that they are very concerned about Islamic extremism within the U.S., while Millennials (37%) are twice as likely as seniors (18%) to report that they are bothered by the notion that Muslims are being singled out for increased government surveillance and monitoring.

If you’re intrigued by the issues raised by these findings, stay tuned for next Tuesday, September 6, when we’ll release our new report, co-authored by Dr. Robert P. Jones and Daniel Cox of PRRI, and E.J. Dionne and William A. Galston of the Brookings Institution.  The report is based on a groundbreaking new national survey that explores views of America ten years after September 11th, attitudes towards Islam and American Muslims, attitudes towards immigrants and immigration reform, and the implications of these findings for the future of American pluralism.