It’s too soon to say how, and whether, the worst mass shooting in U.S. history will affect public opinion polls on the 2016 elections, but Gallup published a report yesterday on Americans attitudes about responding to terrorist threats in general. The survey was in the field in December, six months before the massacre in Orlando, but the snapshot into the public’s thinking is nevertheless informative.
Americans strongly favor military options as effective ways to carry out the U.S. war on terrorism, and have minimal agreement that actions relating to restrictions on Muslims either entering the country or already in the country would be effective.Gallup gave Americans a list of 11 proposals on dealing with terrorism in a survey conducted last December after the San Bernardino mass shooting, and asked them to indicate how effective they thought each would be in reducing terrorist attacks.
The most popular idea was increasing U.S. airstrikes against ISIS targets, which was hardly a surprise. Not only do most Americans have a great deal of confidence in the power of the nation’s military might, but much of the public also has no idea that President Obama has launched several thousand airstrikes against ISIS targets since he began a military offensive in August 2014 – nearly two full years ago.
Nearly as popular was banning gun sales to people on the no-fly watch list, which understandably seems like a fairly obvious thing to do, Republican opposition notwithstanding.
But further down on the list, 38% of Americans backed “a new law that would prevent any Muslim from entering the U.S.” while 32% said they supported requiring Muslims, including those who are U.S. citizens, “to carry a special ID.”
Yes, a majority of Americans said they were against such measures, but let’s not brush past the obvious point: a third of the country is an alarming number of people.
How can Donald Trump remain a competitive presidential candidate? Polls like these help explain quite a bit.