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Nearly two-thirds of voters think 9/11 changed America forever

As the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks approaches this weekend, a new poll has found nearly two-thirds of registered voters believe the tragedy permanently changed American life — more than think the same of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Fox News survey, 64 percent of US voters believe the attacks changed the way Americans live “permanently,” with another 24 percent saying it had changed things “temporarily.”

By comparison, a Fox News poll taken in June found 50 percent of respondents believed COVID-19 had changed American life forever, while 42 percent said it had done so only temporarily.

Nearly 3,000 people were killed on Sept. 11, 2001 when airliners hijacked by Al Qaeda terrorists were deliberately flown into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pa. The attacks precipitated invasions and prolonged occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq; the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS); as well as a heightened security regime at airports, major events and notable public buildings and tourist sites across the US.

When asked to grade five actions the federal government took in response to the attacks, most voters approved of increasing security at airports and the creation of DHS — with 69 percent and 63 percent of respondents saying they were “about the right response,” respectively. Just 15 percent of voters said stepped-up airport security was an “overreaction”, while 18 percent said the same of the founding of DHS.

There was less support for the war in Afghanistan, with just 49 percent of voters saying the invasion of Afghanistan was an appropriate reaction to 9/11 (down from 56 percent in 2011) and 25 percent describing it as an overreaction (up from 21 percent in 2011). Another 20 percent said US military action in Afghanistan “did not go far enough,” up from 17 percent in 2011.

People visiting the National September 11 Memorial on September 8, 2021 ahead of the 20th anniversary of the attacks.
Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Ge

The survey was taken in early August, before the Taliban launched its final offensive against the Western-backed Afghan government and forced the haphazard evacuation of US military forces, American citizens and their Afghan allies.

When it came to Iraq, the pollsters saw a slight uptick in the number of voters saying the invasion of that country in 2003 was appropriate (46 percent compared to 44 percent in 2011), and a nine percentage-point decrease in respondents who called it an overreaction (31 percent compared to 40 percent in 2011.). An additional 18 percent of voters said the Iraq invasion and occupation “did not go far enough,” up from 12 percent who thought the same 10 years ago.

The policy that enjoyed the least support was the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) enhanced interrogation techniques in dealing with terrorist suspects, commonly known by the shorthand “waterboarding.” Just 37 percent of respondents said such methods were appropriate, while 38 percent described them as an overreaction and 18 percent said they did not go far enough.

In all, 65 percent of voters said the changes made in response to 9/11 have made America safer, compared to just 17 percent who said they were less safe.

Despite the lasting impact of that day, voters are evenly split on the question of whether Sept. 11 should be a federal holiday, with 47 percent believing it should and 46 percent believing it should not.

The same survey also found that just 58 percent of respondents were “extremely” or “very” concerned about future Islamist terror attacks against the US — putting it at the bottom of a list of 13 issues including inflation (86 percent “extremely” or “very” concerned), violent crime (81 percent), the growing power of China (73 percent), the pandemic (69 percent), racism (66 percent) and climate change (60 percent).

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