What's Your Take on Terror Warnings?

Most readers say the Administration's nonspecific threat alerts haven't prompted them to do anything to protect themselves

Americans seem to be more annoyed than pleased by the Bush Administration's periodic tendency to issue vague but scary warnings about new terrorist threats -- so much so that citizens don't appear to be taking them to heart. Those are some conclusions from the 750 responses to our May 24 Reader Survey.

A large majority of those who replied -- some 73% -- said the warnings haven't prompted them to take steps to better protect themselves. Only 11% said they've sought safer means of business travel. In part, that may be because readers are somewhat cynical about the warnings. Some 77% think the Administration is issuing them at least in part to relieve itself of blame in the event of another attack.


  More to the point, most of those who participated in this survey aren't sure what to do in response to such warnings. Some 72% said they either wouldn't know what to do to protect themselves and those around them if they saw a terrorist act unfold -- or don't know if they would know what to do.

Likewise, some 74% are somewhat unsure or not sure at all that U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies can uncover and prevent future terrorist attacks in America.

The one thing people do seem sure of is that reports of vague threats don't help them much. Some 38% said they would prefer that the Administration alert them only of specific threats, while an additional 45% said they would prefer a middle course that erred on the side of caution.

Here are the complete results of the survey, which isn't scientific, since anyone who wished to could participate:

Have the warnings that terrorist attacks will almost certainly recur prompted you to take steps to better protect yourself?

Option Total %  
Yes 199 26.68 %
No 547 73.32 %

If you've taken such steps, have you mainly done so:

Option Total %  
At home 46 7.04 %
During business travel (including commuting) 75 11.49 %
In other ways 62 9.49 %
I haven't changed my routine 470 71.98 %

Do you regard Washington's recent warnings as intended mainly to:

Option Total %  
Keep the public informed and alert 94 12.58 %
Interrupt terrorist activities 18 2.41 %
Relieve the Administration of blame in the event of another attack 316 42.3 %
All of the above 259 34.67 %
Other 43 5.76 %
Not sure 17 2.28 %

Would you know how to protect yourself and those around you if you saw a terrorist act unfold?

Option Total %  
Yes 207 27.94 %
No 208 28.07 %
Don't know 326 43.99 %

Based on the experience of the past nine months, would you prefer that the Administration:

Option Total %  
Quickly and fully inform the public of any threat, no matter how vague 92 12.33 %
Only inform the public of specific threats 283 37.94 %
Choose a middle course, but err on the side of caution 336 45.04 %
Not sure 35 4.69 %

How sure are you that Washington can uncover and prevent future terrorist acts in America?

Option Total %  
Very sure 31 4.14 %
Somewhat sure 152 20.32 %
Somewhat unsure 159 21.26 %
Not sure at all 396 52.94 %
No opinion 10 1.34 %
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