Trust in Government to Protect Against Terrorism Slumps to New Low

67 percent forecasts more attacks on homeland in near future

A makeshift memorial in San Bernardino, Calif. / AP

The share of Americans who express confidence in the U.S. government’s ability to protect the nation from future terrorist attacks has slumped to a new low in the wake of attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.

Only 55 percent of Americans have a fair amount or great deal of confidence in the government under President Obama to protect its citizens from future acts of terrorism, according to a Gallup poll conducted between Dec. 8 and 9 in the days following the deadly shooting at a San Bernardino holiday party.

This number has eroded 12 percentage points since June. It is also 33 percentage points less than the near nine-in-10 Americans who held such confidence in the government under Republican President George W. Bush to protect America from terrorism shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The poll was conducted about a week following the terror attack in San Bernardino that killed 14 individuals and wounded 21 others. The FBI investigation has so far concluded that the two attackers, both of whom died in a shootout with police, had been radicalized for years.

The American public’s confidence in the government to shield its citizens against terror attacks has gradually eroded over the last 14 years.

Today, 51 percent of U.S. adults are at least somewhat worried that they or a member of their family will become a victim of terrorism, representing a slight increase over the 49 percent who felt so in June. Still, the figure is at its highest in the history of Gallup data, save on a few occasions immediately following the 9/11 terror attacks when as much as 59 percent held such fear.

Sixty-seven percent believe that acts of terrorism against the homeland are at least somewhat likely to take place in coming weeks, a 22-percent jump since June and the highest share believing so since early 2003 following the invasion of Iraq.

Such fears of terrorism have appeared to stoke desire among Americans for stronger action against ISIS, the terror group that claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks and inspired the San Bernardino attack.

A separate CNN/ORC poll released earlier this week found that a majority of Americans want the United States to send ground troops into combat operations against ISIS. However, the Obama administration has insisted that substantially more ground troops are not the answer to crippling the terrorist group.