National Security and terrorism are by far the most important issue for American voters at the moment with numbers that have rarely been reached since 9/11.
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Monday found that 40 percent of Americans think national security and terrorism should be the government’s top priority, and more than 60 percent have it in the top two. The same poll in April had it at 21 percent.
The concern has been growing among Americans after the Nov. 13 Paris attacks — which Americans hold as the most prominent news event this year, according to the poll — and the San Bernardino massacre earlier this month. A quarter of Americans now say they are scared that their families might be victims of a terrorist attack. (RELATED: Poll: Americans Have 99 Problems And Terrorism Is No. 1)
“For most of 2015, our country’s mood and thus the presidential election was defined by anger and the unevenness of the economic recovery, and now that has abruptly changed to fear,” said Fred Yang, the Democratic pollster who conducted the survey along with Republican Bill McInturff, told The Wall Street Journal.
A look at polls in the 21st century shows that national security is a fairly low concern for Americans unless a war or terror threat dominates the headlines. The issue came in last out of four options with 16 percent in the last poll before the 2008 presidential election. It was a close second to the economy with 25 percent before the 2004 election, when the war in Iraq was full tilt.
The fear of terrorism tends to quickly fade away in the months after a major security concern. The first poll after the 9/11 attacks had terrorism at 64 percent. A year later, 42 percent thought too much time and resources were spent on Iraq and terrorism.
Job creation and economic growth held the top spot in the April poll and came in second at 23 percent, down six percentage points. Government spending and health care follow with 11 and nine percent, respectively.
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