Interesting results from a Gallup Poll released today:
Roughly three-fourths (76%) of Americans think that “bin Laden himself is currently planning a significant terrorist attack against the United States.” Of these, slightly more than half think he will succeed. All told, then, 40% of Americans believe bin Laden is planning an attack that will succeed, 36% believe he is planning an attack that will not succeed, and 20% do not believe he is planning an attack.
In the fall of 2001, how many Americans would have guessed that bin Laden would still be at large four years later? In late November 2001, 78% of Americans felt it was “very” (34%) or “somewhat” (44%) likely that the United States would be able to capture or kill bin Laden. Today, Americans express a more tempered optimism — 55% believe bin Laden’s capture or demise is very (17%) or somewhat (38%) likely. Results on this question have varied substantially over the past four years. The current very/somewhat likely percentage is the same as the low measured in March 2002. Optimism was highest in the first few months after the terrorist attacks.
Eliminating bin Laden would undoubtedly be a major blow to al Qaeda, but Americans are by no means under the impression that getting rid of bin Laden would mean the end of the terrorist organization he masterminded. Ninety-two percent of Americans say that if even if bin Laden is captured or killed, al Qaeda will remain a threat to the United States.
That said, nearly two-thirds (63%) of Americans think it is either “extremely” (37%) or “very” (26%) important to the United States that bin Laden be captured or killed, with an additional 24% saying “somewhat important.”