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Balancing Fear: Why Counter-Terror Legislation was Blocked after the Oklahoma City and London Bombings
Unformatted Document Text:  Limbaugh and at the right to bear arms, a strategy which alienated the majority Republican Congress. On the public opinion front, mass fear levels were high after the Oklahoma City bombing, but the nature of public opinion surveys makes it difficult to tell whether or not there was a bump in mass fear levels. At best, available data allows us to surmise that there was a rise in fear levels after the bombing and conclusively state that fear levels were high. This is because polling on terrorism tends to occur after terror attacks occurs. That said, as Brigitte Nacos notes, terrorism rises and recedes very quickly as a salient issue in the mind of Americans. She notes that after the 1985 TWA hijacking, 13% of Americans saw terrorism as the most important problem facing their country according to a CBS/New York Times survey, whereas six months earlier terrorism had not been mentioned at all as an important problem facing America and six months later, less than 1 percent of respondents mentioned terrorism when faced with the same query 84 . The below chart combines data from polls asking Americans about whether they personally feel danger from terrorism 85 . It clearly shows a rise in terror fears after Oklahoma City, though obviously not as high as the fear levels after 9/11. Note that the first poll taken in the below chart comes from March 1993, after the first World Trade Center bombing transpired. In addition to this data, polls asking Americans how worried they were that they or someone in their family would become victims of terrorism found that 42% of Americans were very or somewhat worried about this scenario in April 1995, 84 Nacos, Brigitte L. Terrorism & the Media: From the Iran Hostage Crisis to the Oklahoma City Bombing. (New York: Columbia University Press 1994), pg. 70. 85 The data comes from March 1993 and April 1995 Gallup/CNN/USA Today polls asking respondents, “Do you personally feel any sense of danger from terrorist acts where you live and work, or not?” and CBS/New York Times polls from 9/11/2001 to early January 2002 which asked Americans, “Would you say you personally are very concerned about a terrorist attack in the area where you live, or not?” 32

Authors: Rubin, Gabriel.
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background image
Limbaugh and at the right to bear arms, a strategy which alienated the majority
Republican Congress.
On the public opinion front, mass fear levels were high after the Oklahoma City
bombing, but the nature of public opinion surveys makes it difficult to tell whether or not
there was a bump in mass fear levels. At best, available data allows us to surmise that
there was a rise in fear levels after the bombing and conclusively state that fear levels
were high. This is because polling on terrorism tends to occur after terror attacks occurs.
That said, as Brigitte Nacos notes, terrorism rises and recedes very quickly as a salient
issue in the mind of Americans. She notes that after the 1985 TWA hijacking, 13% of
Americans saw terrorism as the most important problem facing their country according to
a CBS/New York Times survey, whereas six months earlier terrorism had not been
mentioned at all as an important problem facing America and six months later, less than 1
percent of respondents mentioned terrorism when faced with the same query
The below chart combines data from polls asking Americans about whether they
personally feel danger from terrorism
. It clearly shows a rise in terror fears after
Oklahoma City, though obviously not as high as the fear levels after 9/11. Note that the
first poll taken in the below chart comes from March 1993, after the first World Trade
Center bombing transpired. In addition to this data, polls asking Americans how worried
they were that they or someone in their family would become victims of terrorism found
that 42% of Americans were very or somewhat worried about this scenario in April 1995,
84
Nacos, Brigitte L. Terrorism & the Media: From the Iran Hostage Crisis to the Oklahoma City Bombing.
(New York: Columbia University Press 1994), pg. 70.
85
The data comes from March 1993 and April 1995 Gallup/CNN/USA Today polls asking respondents, “Do
you personally feel any sense of danger from terrorist acts where you live and work, or not?” and CBS/New
York Times
polls from 9/11/2001 to early January 2002 which asked Americans, “Would you say you
personally are very concerned about a terrorist attack in the area where you live, or not?”
32


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