Poll: 47% of Californians say 9/11 had a lasting impact on them
Two decades after the September 11th terrorist attacks, a majority of Californians believe the surveillance laws that have been passed are justified, while the state’s most conservative and liberal voters are more skeptical, according to a new poll.
The Berkeley Institute for Governmental Studies poll, in collaboration with the Los Angeles Times, found that the events of that day remain vivid memories for three-quarters of the state’s voters, and nearly half say September 11th had a lasting impact on themselves or their families.
“It was a frontier point in American life,” said Mark DiCamillo, the survey director. “There we are 20 years later … long queues at the airport, increased security. Everything comes from that day. “
A significant number of California voters say they have been treated improperly due to heightened security measures. Every fourth voter claims to have been harassed during security checks at airports, for example. There is little difference between the way Democrats and Republicans say they experienced abuse, but there are significant differences between racial and ethnic backgrounds. Approximately 25% of white, Latin American, and Asian voters in California report harassment, compared with 39% of black voters and 51% of Native American / Native American respondents.
Still, the results show that the immediacy of 9/11 is starting to fade from the collective memory of Californians. Although about 90% of Californians over 50 say they remember exactly that day – when terrorists hijacked four planes to attack targets in the United States – the number of children under 30 who were children or not yet born is shrinking were down to less than 20% when the attacks occurred.
Young Californians are much less likely to say that the events of September 11th had a lasting impact on themselves or their families. Overall, voters in the state were almost evenly divided; 47% said they or their families had a lasting effect from the attacks, 52% did not.
Voters under 40 are also more cautious about federal laws passed after the attacks, which gave law enforcement agencies more powers to monitor the public. Fewer than half of these younger Californians say the politics are warranted, compared to the majority of voters 40 and older, with approval rates rising to 75% among those over 75.
Overall, 56% of the state’s electorate support such laws, 22% feel the measures are unjustified and another 22% have no opinion.
Attitudes do not exactly correspond to partisan tendencies. Republicans and Democrats support the law equally (around 60%), and half of the voters with no party preference say the same.
Voters from the extremes of the ideological spectrum – strong conservatives and strong liberals – are less likely than moderate voters to find the policy justified. And the proportion of voters who did not have an opinion on the law rose as the level of education rose; 29% of those with postgraduate degrees said they had no opinion, compared with 9% who did not have a college degree.
Such a pattern is unusual among the most highly educated respondents who hold more defined views, DiCamillo said.
In this case, the value of surveillance laws is “a more complicated issue,” he said. “It’s not a clear yes or no.”
The results also underscore how some views of the ongoing 9/11 impact are defying the hyperpolarization trend that has crept into almost every corner of American life. Although party affiliation has some bearing on Californians’ outlook, DiCamillo said it has “a modest influence”.
“It’s there, but it’s lurking in the background,” he said, a huge difference from most of the subjects he questions on, where there are “just incredible partisan differences in looking at the realities of American life.”
Similarly, Democrats and Republicans report comparable attitudes about how fear of a terrorist attack affects their behavior. 21 percent of Democrats and 17 percent of Republicans say they haven’t visited an amusement park, sports stadium, or major entertainment venue because of such safety concerns; 1 in 5 voters without party preference report the same thing.
Overall, California voters are divided on whether the results of the US government’s investigation into the attacks have been fully passed on to the Americans. Government transparency around September 11th has been a smoldering issue for the past two decades. In August, nearly 1,800 Americans directly affected by the attacks told President Biden not to attend memorial services unless he disclosed evidence they believe may link Saudi Arabia to the attack.
Last week, Biden signed an executive order that paved the way for the review and publication of some secret 9/11 documents.
Although 54% of voters in the state believe the 9/11 Commission report released all the key facts about who planned the attacks and how they were carried out, 43% believe key details have still not been released. Beliefs that the government is withholding information are stronger among Republicans than Democrats, and the gap between Trump voters and Biden voters is even wider. People who get their news primarily through social media are more likely to believe that important information does not need to be published yet, compared to consumers of other news sources such as television, newspapers, and radio.
More partisan differences exist when it comes to the treatment of Muslim Americans after September 11th. Although a large majority of California voters as a whole believe Muslim Americans do so because of the US reaction to the 11th Republican, compared to 78% of Democrats and 69% of no-party voters.
Party affiliation also shapes attitudes towards the threats posed by Islamic extremism and opinions about the future of Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the American military.
84 percent of Republicans see radical Islamist groups as a major ongoing threat to the United States, compared with 49 percent of Democrats. GOP voters are also more pessimistic when terrorist groups re-form in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan and use the country as a starting point for attacks; 79% thought such a scenario was very likely, a view shared by 39% of Democrats.
A large number of Californians – 44% – say the war in Afghanistan was justified in the beginning, but America should not have engaged in that country for two decades. About three in ten voters believe the war was a mistake from the start, a position held by Democrats and independent voters rather than Republicans.
Nearly 40% of GOP respondents say the protracted military intervention was necessary and it was wrong to back out, a view only held by 16% of Californians overall.
The Berkeley IGS poll was conducted online in English and Spanish from August 30 through September 6 of 9,809 registered voters across California. The estimated level of error is approximately plus or minus 1.8 percentage points.