Why haven’t we had a major terror attack on American soil since 9/11? Is it because our government’s deterrence and detection methods are so good? Perhaps the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan helped to prevent a new attack? Or is it just plain dumb luck?
We don’t really know the answer, of course. It could be all of these reasons, or some other factors we haven’t considered. Whatever the facts are, it’s instructive to consider what Americans believe about this question. Beliefs can shape our decisions and actions more than facts do.
Just about everyone has an opinion about why we haven’t seen another attack, according to a Pew Research Center poll taken last month.
- Don’t Know: Only 7% of Americans say they don’t know why.
- Effective Precautions: Four of ten (43%) believe we haven’t had a major attack since 9/11 because the government is doing a good job protecting the nation.
- Luck: About a third say it’s just because we’ve been lucky so far. Older Americans are even more likely to cite luck as the reason.
- Tough Target: About one in four young Americans (ages 18–29) like to think it’s because America is a difficult target, but only one in ten older Americans (65+) agree with this.
- Wars? The decade-long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so costly in life and resources, have not lessened the chances of another major attack, most Americans say. Only one in four Americans think the chances are lower because of these wars, with little variation in opinion between Republicans and Democrats. More Americans believe the wars have increased, rather than decreased, the chances of another terrorist attack, though Republicans are less likely than Democrats or Independents to agree.
What’s your theory?
Why haven’t we seen another major terror attack?
Do you worry we’ll eventually have another attack?
Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.