Public Opinion on the Family - Opinions About The Future
americans ten nuclear figure
Despite predictions of natural disasters, terrorism, and environmental calamities, Americans at the turn of the twenty-first century expressed confidence that life would continue to get better. A 2000 survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reveals that more than four-fifths of Americans were optimistic about the welfare of themselves and their families. Their predictions for the next fifty years included good and bad. Eight in ten people believed there would be a cure for cancer and for AIDS. Nine in ten expected a major earthquake in California, 64% feared terrorists would attack the United States, and 41% believed there would be a nuclear war. More than three-fourths believed the nation would elect a woman and an African-American as president.
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, had a lasting impact on the nation and on American families. Certainly the families of the 2,948 individuals (official count as of October 29, 2003) who lost their lives in the four airplanes, the World Trade Center, and the Pentagon suffered permanent change. According to a September 2002 feature titled "9/11 By the Numbers" in NewYorkMetro.com (the official website of New York magazine and Metro TV), more than sixteen hundred people lost a spouse or partner and over three thousand children lost a parent as a result of the terrorist attacks. Researchers suggested that the events caused Americans to renew their focus on family.
In a November 2001 special edition of the Wirthlin Report—America Responds, Part Three, Wirthlin Worldwide noted that American's sense of security had been violated by the attacks. The report states, "The real change to American life may lie in the deeper, long-lasting effects…on day-to-day activities of the average citizen…includ[ing] family life." According to a Wirthlin survey, spending time with family and friends had taken on new significance. Planning for the holidays and for vacations was less appealing for many. (See Figure 7.8.) Wirthlin described the changed habits of Americans as "burrowing"—turning to home, family, and friends for stability and security.
Another Wirthlin report, Seeking Stability in 2003, found that the impact of the September 11 events was "still reverberating." Forty-eight percent of Americans felt they would have to make lifestyle changes in the next five years due to terrorist activity, compared to 61% shortly after the attacks. (See Figure 7.9.) The same report noted that Americans wanted to put their financial houses in order. In a Wirthlin survey people were asked what they would do if they won $2,000. Rather than buying some longed-for possession, 41% said they would pay off debts and 32% would save or invest the windfall. (See Figure 7.10.) Wirthlin projected that the trend of turning more attention to home, family, and friends could be expected to continue. Survey data suggested particularly that parents would increasingly measure themselves by the relationships they had with their children rather than by material possessions.
In August 2003 the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press repeated a survey conducted in early September 2001. According to the resulting report, "the threat of terrorism is now part of the fabric of American life," its pollsters found. Three-quarters of Americans
found the world to be a more dangerous place than it had been ten years earlier. (See Table 7.13.) The majority of Americans continued to worry about another terrorist
attack. (See Figure 7.11.) When Cold War tensions still kept the world on edge in 1987 and 1988, about six in ten Americans said they often worried about a nuclear war. In August 2003 a little more than half worried about nuclear war and just 40% worried about the chances of nuclear attack by terrorists. (See Table 7.14.)
|Public opinion on whether the world is more dangerous than ten years ago, September 2001–August 2003|
|HOW DANGEROUS IS THE WORLD COMPARED TO TEN YEARS AGO?|
|Early Sept 2001*
|*In early September 2001 the question was preceded by: "It has been ten years since the end of the Cold War".|
|SOURCE: "A More Dangerous World," in Two Years Later, The Fear Lingers, The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, September 4, 2003, http://peoplepress.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID=192 (accessed July 26, 2004)|
|About the same||30||20|
|IS THE DANGER OF AN ATTACK ON THE U.S. GREATER NOW THAN TEN YEARS AGO?|
|Public opinion on whether there will be a nuclear war, May 1987–August 2003|
|OFTEN WORRY ABOUT THE CHANCES OF NUCLEAR WAR…|
|SOURCE: Nuclear Nightmare," in Two Years Later, The Fear Lingers, The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, September 4, 2003, http://peoplepress.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID=192 (accessed July 26, 2004)|
|OFTEN WORRY ABOUT THE CHANCES OF A NUCLEAR ATTACK BY TERRORISTS…|