Financial Fears Outweigh Terrorist Threat

Most Americans believe the current financial crisis poses a greater threat than terrorism.

In a poll taken during the first three days of the meltdown that began Sept. 29, 81 percent of the 802 people surveyed in a national poll agreed or strongly agreed that the financial crisis "poses a greater threat to the quality of my life than does the threat of terrorism."

The results, announced yesterday, revealed anger, fear, and a lack of faith in government and business leaders.

  • 41 percent were very angry about the current financial challenges and 32 percent were moderately angry.
  • Only 19 percent felt they could adjust to what happens because of the financial crisis.
  • 51 percent said they had no or only slight influence for controlling the impacts on their lives.

The survey was conducted by Decision Research in conjunction with researchers at the University of Oregon.

"The current financial challenges in the United States represent a unique opportunity to study public risk perceptions and risk-related behaviors in the midst of an ongoing economic crisis that threatens the quality of life of a wide spectrum of Americans," said research team member William Burns, a consultant to the Department of Homeland Security's Center for Risk and Economic Analysis for Terrorism Events and a lecturer at California State University at San Marcos. "Few emergencies within the United States have affected so many people."

Among the questions: Who do you trust to meet the challenges?

  • Barack Obama: 23 percent
  • John McCain: 16 percent
  • President Bush and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson: 5 to 7 percent
  • Business leaders: 2 percent.

The researchers began their surveys at 1 p.m. (Eastern), Sept. 29, as the Dow Jones industrial average was in its biggest one-day point decline in decades. Polling continued through 1 p.m., Oct. 1. Participants are on a 1,000-member national panel maintained by Decision Research; members participate in web-based surveys on a continuing basis. While not a random sample, the panel includes a broad cross-section of the people across the United States. The participants are 71 percent women, 79 percent white, and 41 percent have college degrees. The median annual income of responders was about $50,000. They were 39 percent Democrat, 21 percent as Republican, 20 percent independent and 17 percent as undeclared. Respondents were judged to be 49 percent conservative and 50 percent liberal.