During the 2016 presidential election cycle, it seems that the two remaining mainline party candidates are doing what they can to convince voters that they have the answer when it comes to protecting the American homeland from terrorist attacks. Let's take a look back in time and look at the connection between political party affiliation and the fear of terrorism on American soil, how this relationship has changed over time and how the level of fear has changed since September 11, 2001. This is particularly pertinent given that we are about to reach the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Pollsters at Pew Research, one of America's leading polling organizations, regularly poll Americans, asking them whether they believe that terrorists have a greater ability to launch another major attack on the United States than they did at the time of the September 11th, 2001 attacks. Here is a graph showing the relationship between the fear of a terrorist attack varies with both political persuasion and time:
There are two key things that can be gleaned from this data:
1.) The overall percentage of Americans of both political parties believe that the United States is more vulnerable to a terrorist attack than at any time since 9/11 is at a 15 year high of 89 percent as shown on this graph:
2.) Opinions on America's vulnerability to an attack have been divided along partisan lines over the past 15 years; when George W. Bush was in the Oval Office, Republicans were far more likely to believe that they were safe than Democrats and, since 2008 when Barack Obama took over as President, Democrats were far more likely to believe that they were safe from a major terrorist attack than Republicans. I guess voters feel that they can trust "their own" more than they can trust "the other" with their safety. That said, the 58 percent of Republicans that felt that they were unsafe in 2016 is, by a wide margin, the highest level of concern expressed by partisans from either side of the political spectrum in 15 years.
In the 2016 version of the poll, Pew found the following:
1.) 68 percent of Republicans stated that the government's anti-terrorism policies haven't gone far enough to protect the United States. This compares to 55 percent in 2004.
2.) 46 percent of Democrats stated that the government's anti-terrorism policies haven't gone far enough to protect the United States. This compares to 47 percent in 2004.
3.) When looking at protection from terrorism versus restrictions on civil liberties, 49 percent of Americans believe that the government has not gone far enough to protect the United States from terrorism versus only 33 percent who believe that the anti-terrorism policies have gone too far in restricting civil liberties. This is a significant change from 2013 (the year that the government's intrusive snooping activities were revealed by Edward Snowden) when 47 percent of respondents felt that anti-terrorism policies had infringed on civil liberties.
It is interesting to see how the level of concern over another major terrorist attack against the United States has grown to its post-9/11 high during the 2016 election cycle. The terrorist attacks in Europe and California during 2015 and 2016 prove that it is almost impossible for governments and their leaders to provide full protection from another major terrorist attack no matter what Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump may promise.