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Sounding Off On Homeland Security

A CBS News Poll shows that most Americans support the creation of a Department of Homeland Security, and expect that it will help in the fight against terrorism.

While many believe that President Bush's announcement of the plan to create a new department to guard the nation was timed to draw attention away from the Congressional hearings examining the failure of the intelligence agencies to predict the attacks of September 11, few think that the government has exaggerated the threat of terrorism.


The poll - of 892 adults contacted by phone earlier this week - found that more than two-thirds approve of the proposal to create a Department of Homeland Security, with almost as many saying that they believe the creation of the new department will help the fight against terrorism. Fewer than one in four say that having a new department will hurt or have no effect.

Creation of Homeland Security Department

Approve 70%
Disapprove 15

New Department's Impact On Fighting terrorism

Help 66%
Hurt 4
No Impact 19

Large majorities of both Republicans and Democrats support the new department. There is greater partisan division on evaluating the timing of the announcement. Overall, 50 percent say the timing had to do with the Congressional hearings, and just 17 percent say it was because that was when the plan was ready. Democrats are especially cynical; by six to one they see the timing of the announcement as political. So do Republicans, but by a much narrower 38% to 27%.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
Timing Of Homeland Security Plan

 Why did announcement come when it did?
Proposal was ready then


To overshadow Congressional hearings




Most Americans think government warnings about possible terrorist attacks, even those with little in the way of specifics, are a good idea. Less than a third thinks the government's warnings have been a bad idea.

Government Warnings About Possible Attacks

Good idea 66%
Bad idea 29

There is little public concern that the government may be exaggerating any terrorist threat. Less than one in ten say the governments' warnings have been exaggerated; two-thirds say they have been about right; 16% say they haven't been taking the danger seriously enough.

Tone Of Government Terrorism Warnings

About right 66%
Exaggerating danger 9
Underestimating danger 16


When it comes to handling international crisis, the public makes no distinction between the President and his administration. Majorities see both as capable of handling international crisis. But the public views the President and his administration quite differently when it comes to caring about people. Six in ten Americans say President Bush cares about the needs and problems of people like themselves, but just 45% say this about most members of the President's administration. 48% say most members of the administration don't care about them.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
Do They Care About You?

President Bush



Members of his administration




Independents and women are especially likely to see the President and those who work for him differently. By 60% to 29%, independents say Bush cares about them; but by 54% to 35%, they say most of the administration does not. As for women, 61% say Bush cares about their needs and problems, but only 415 think the rest of the administration does.

The President and his administration are seen as equally capable of handling foreign conflicts. 62% now say they have confidence in the President's ability to deal wisely with an international crisis; 58% say this about members of his administration. Confidence in Bush's ability to handle an international crisis has declined since January, but is still much higher it was than a year ago.

Confident In Their Handling Of International Crisis

Yes No

President Bush 62% 32
Members of his administration 58% 37


Americans are divided over whether this President or someone else is really in charge of the government. 43% of Americans now see President Bush as being in charge of what goes on in his administration most of the time, but 46% say other people are really running the government. Fewer now than at the beginning of the year say George W. Bush is in charge, but the overall results are still slightly more balanced than they were near the start of Bush's presidency.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
Who's Really Running The Government?

 NowJan. 2002March 2001




 NowJan. 2002March 2001
Other people





Among those who say other people are in charge, the top answers include the President's advisors, especially Vice President Dick Cheney, and the Congress and specific Congressional leaders.

Whatever this evaluation, Americans still give George W. Bush a solid 70% approval rating, though that rating continues its very slight decline from the high of 90% shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Job Approval Rating

Approve 70%
Disapprove 20

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