Last week, the country observed the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. It’s a good time to ask which lessons the public has drawn from that experience and subsequent efforts to fight terrorism. A new poll from the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes sheds light on this question.
First, the public was asked directly what the most important lesson of 9/11 was: “The United States needs to work more closely with other countries to fight terrorism,” or “The United States needs to act on its own more to fight terrorism.” By an overwhelming 69-28, the public sided with the idea that we should work more closely with other countries.
The public was also asked for their assessment of contemporary Islam: Is violent conflict inevitable because of Islamic intolerance or is it possible to find common ground with most in the Islamic world? By 59-37, the public endorsed the common ground concept.
Finally, the public was asked about the proper approach to rooting out terrorists. Is it necessary to address the sources of hostility that lead to terrorism or is finding and destroying terrorists the only thing that matters? By 61-33, the public rejected the idea that destroying terrorists should be our sole concern in this area.
That’s what the public thinks, 10 years on. Conservatives draw quite different lessons, of course, but in doing so they depart from the mainstream of public opinion—as usual.
Ruy Teixeira is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. To learn more about his public opinion analysis go to the Media and Progressive Values page and the Progressive Studies program page of our website.