Nation a Mix Of Anxiety, Concern and Calm When it Comes to Homeland Security, New Report Finds
Citizens Ready, Willing & Able, but Uninformed About How to Assist Security Efforts
WASHINGTON, D.C.; March 31, 2004 – While a majority of Americans describe themselves as “concerned” regarding homeland security and believe that the United States is likely to be the target of another terrorist attack in the months ahead, very few are aware of state and local security preparedness plans, according to a report released today by the nonpartisan Council for Excellence in Government.
The report, “From the Home Front to the Front Lines: America Speaks Out about Homeland Security,” presents findings of a two-part study conducted by Hart-Teeter Research and sponsored by Accenture. The report is based on a national survey of more than 1,600 American citizens as well as a national sample of 250 front-line emergency response personnel.
When asked for ways that government can improve homeland security, more than one-third of citizen respondents said they believe that the two most-effective measures are creating information systems that can share data across law enforcement, health and emergency agencies, and improving border security.
Nearly half (47 percent) of Americans surveyed said that the United States is safer today than it was on Sep. 11, 2001, up from 38 percent one year after the attacks.
Other key findings of the report:
- Three-quarters (seventy-seven percent) of adults said they believe it is very or somewhat likely the United States will be the target of another major terrorist attack in the next few months. However, half (forty-nine percent) of the adults surveyed said that they are not concerned about an attack in their neighborhoods;
- While 26 percent of Americans describe themselves as “calm,” nearly three-quarters (73 percent) describe themselves as either “anxious” or “concerned;”
- The most-feared types of attacks are bioterrorism and chemical weapons, selected by 48 percent) and 37 percent of citizen respondents, respectively;
- Only one in five (19 percent of) Americans said they are aware of or familiar with their communities’ preparedness plans; 18 percent said they are aware of or familiar with their state’s preparedness plans; 36 percent said they are aware of or familiar with their workplace’s preparedness plans; and 27 percent said they are aware of or familiar with their schools’ preparedness plans;
- Citizens view tighter border security and information systems that share data across agencies (interoperability) as the best steps to strengthen homeland security, each selected by 37 percent of respondents.
- More than three in five citizens (62 percent) said they would be willing to volunteer to help homeland security efforts, including planning, training, and practicing drills in their communities. The same percentage supports a new nationwide hotline to report suspicious activity;
- Fifty-six percent of Americans believe that the Patriot Act is good for America. Thirty-three percent believe it is bad for America. Eleven percent of Americans are unsure. Half the public believe that it must be debated thoroughly in Congress before any decisions are made about whether it should be renewed next year;
- A majority (59 percent) of the public said they believe the government should have access to companies’ personal information about their customers if there is any chance that it will help prevent terrorism.
“When it comes to our nation’s safety and security, the American public has very clear and thoughtful suggestions for government leaders, and they see both an important role and serious responsibilities for themselves as well,” said Patricia McGinnis, president and CEO of the Council for Excellence in Government. “The results of this poll make clear that the American public has a front-line position in protecting the home front. But it also shows that government must better engage them, particularly by closing the communications gap between government and citizens. Local emergency plans are not going to be effective if ordinary citizens do not know where to turn or what to do. One key challenge for government at all levels is to get these plans into the hands—and the heads—of the public.”
“The good news is that governments are already working hard to improve in the two key areas that Americans identified as priorities for shoring up our homeland security,” said Stanley J. Gutkowski, managing director of Accenture’s USA Government practice. “Federal, state and local governments have recognized the need to do a better job of sharing information in order to be able to identify potential threats to our society. At the same time, the Department of Homeland Security is taking the necessary steps to protect our physical borders by pushing out virtual borders to stop terrorists before they can enter U.S. soil, water or air space.”
Front-Line Emergency Respondents
In addition to the national survey of American’s attitudes, the report also provides detailed opinions from a sample of front-line emergency responders across the nation, including fire chiefs, police chiefs and sheriffs. Although a majority (53 percent) of this group said they believe that the country is safer today than it was two and a half years ago, two-thirds (65 percent) of all of these respondents said they believe that their agencies are only somewhat prepared to respond if disaster strikes, and only one-quarter (26 percent) said they believe that their agencies are adequately prepared.
As with citizen respondents, first responders’ most-feared types of attacks are bioterrorism and chemical weapons, selected by 67 percent and 42 percent, respectively. But first responders show considerably more concern about attacks on critical infrastructure than does the public, with nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of first responders saying that they worry “a great deal” or “quite a lot” about attacks on infrastructure.
When asked to prioritize measures to promote homeland security, first responders rated emergency response equipment training first among their priorities, selected by 51 percent, followed by the two areas selected as most important by citizen respondents: interoperability, selected by 34 percent of first responders; and tighter borders, selected by 25 percent of first responders. Two-thirds (66 percent) said they support the establishment of a nationwide homeland security telephone hotline.
The study was conducted by the research firms of Peter D. Hart and Robert M. Teeter and comprised two parts: 1) a telephone survey conducted from Feb. 5 to 8, 2004 of a nationally representative sample of 1,633 randomly selected adults in the United States ((margin of error: +3.1%); and 2) interviews with 250 fire chiefs, police chiefs, sheriffs and other first responders.
“From the Home Front to the Front Lines: America Speaks Out about Homeland Security” is part of the Council for Excellence in Government’s “Homeland Security from the Citizens’ Perspective” project, designed to engage and connecting citizens, businesses, and government nationwide through a series of town hall meetings, expert working groups, and the release of this poll and report. Based on the results of this combined work, the Council will publish a set of major homeland security recommendations later this spring, for action by key government players at the local, state and national levels, as well as business and civic leaders, and citizens.
About The Council for Excellence in Government
Currently celebrating its 20th anniversary, the Council for Excellence in Government (www.excelgov.org) is a national nonpartisan and nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. that works to improve the performance of government at all levels, as well as citizen participation, understanding and trust in government.
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company. Committed to delivering innovation, Accenture collaborates with its clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. With deep industry and business process expertise, broad global resources and a proven track record, Accenture can mobilize the right people, skills, and technologies to help clients improve their performance. With approximately 90,000 people in 48 countries, the company generated net revenues of US$11.8 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2003. Its home page is www.accenture.com.
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