Fewer than half of Americans (43%) say the main reason the country has not suffered another major attack since 9/11 is that the government is doing a good job protecting the country; 35% say America has been lucky so far, while 16% say the main reason is that America is a difficult target for terrorists. Still, most Americans credit the government for doing a good job in reducing the threat of terrorism. Three-quarters (76%) of Americans say the government is doing very (27%) or fairly (49%) well in this effort. For most of the past ten years, at least two-thirds of the American public, including majorities across party lines, have offered this generally positive assessment. The one notable exception was in January 2007, when George W. Bush announced his “surge” strategy for the war in Iraq. During that month, positive assessments of government performance on terrorism fell to a ten-year low of 54% — due mostly to the negative assessments from Democrats.

Americans are skeptical that U.S. military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan have done much to improve U.S. security when it comes to combating terrorism. About three-in-ten (31%) say U.S. involvement in Iraq has increased the chances of another terrorist attack here, and 39% say it made no difference. Just 26% say the war in Iraq has lessened the chances of another attack. Evaluations of the war in Afghanistan are similar: 37% say it has increased chances of another terrorist attack in the U.S., 25% say it has lessened the chances of an attack and 34% say it has not made a difference. Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say the war in Afghanistan has increased the chances of another attack on U.S. soil (42% vs. 29%). Independents tend to share the views of Democrats, with 41% saying the U.S. is more at risk because of the war in Afghanistan. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.