Polling Together


The Sunday yak shows all commented on two polls, one serious and one funny. The serious one was released by Gallup last week and asked almost 10,000 Muslims in nine foreign countries their attitudes about the 9/11 attacks. The most surprising results: Sixty-one percent of respondents didn't think Arab groups had anything to do with the attacks. And two-thirds thought the U.S. action in Afghanistan was unjustified. A recent survey of American attitudes, unsurprisingly, shows very different results.

The joke poll question came courtesy of Fox News and asked which D.C. donnybrook was more likely to be more entertaining: the scheduled fight between heavyweight boxers Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson or the ongoing political brouhaha between feather-banged Sens. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.). In question 31, 43 percent of respondents picked the latter while 23 percent picked the former. Two percent offered up Tyson vs. Daschle and 1 percent Tyson vs. Lott.

The Fox poll is notable for other reasons. Chief among these is the sharply declining number of people concerned about terrorism. When polled in late September, 52 percent ranked terrorism as one of the two most important issues for the federal government (30 percent named the economy). In the last week of February, the number picking terrorism had fallen to 19 percent. According the Fox poll, the economy now tops the chart as the main concern (21 percent named it). Interestingly, though, respondents seem less revved up in general about government action than in the immediate wake of 9/11.

Of course, such diminished enthusiasm on the part of citizens won't slow down federal spending anytime soon–it never has, even and perhaps especially under supposed small-government champions such as Ronald Reagan. But if nothing else, the declining numbers throw some cold water on the claims of big government boosters such as Bowling Alone author Robert D. Putnam and draft codger Charles Moskos, who used the terrorist attacks to advance their long-cherished plans to beef up activist public policy.