A new Rasmussen poll says, “More voters than ever think terrorists have the advantage over the United States and its allies.” Forty-six percent of 1,000 likely voters responding to the poll thought terrorists were winning, while only 26% believed the United States and its allies had the upper hand. Those are the worst numbers Rasmussen has seen in over a decade.
Those poll numbers have generally been trending in the terrorists’ direction since the beginning of 2014, a sea change that rather obviously coincided with the collapse of President Obama’s foreign policy. The American public’s willingness to swallow President Obama’s narrative about the “Arab Spring” as a flowering of democracy, and the Islamic State as a transitory menace, ended with a string of bombings in Baghdad and Cairo.
The murder of Western hostages by ISIS looks like a crime wave the terrorists are getting away with. President Obama’s anti-ISIS strategy is a stalled-out quagmire, with allegations that situation reports have been cooked to keep it from looking even worse. Concerns about the security threat posed by the Middle Eastern migratory wave, with many thousands of Syrians headed for the United States, are running high.
Domestically, there has been mounting unease over a series of near-miss terror attacks thwarted at the last minute, stories about a disturbing number of young Americans joining ISIS and other terror gangs, and the “lone wolf” incidents Western politicians resolutely refuse to see as part of any greater pattern or ideology. The Administrations’ responses to War on Terror developments are confused and ineffectual.
It is not easy to conclusively pin long-term polling trends to world events, but it is interesting that the percentage of poll respondents who thought America was winning the War on Terror hovered in the low 50s and high 40s until the Benghazi attack in 2012. The downward slide in Rasmussen’s historical chart becomes unmistakable after the November re-election of Barack Obama. The percentage of respondents who thought America was winning the War on Terror dropped from 49% to 44% between November 1 and November 20, 2012, and never got over 45% again. Perhaps some people who wore rose-colored glasses in order to re-elect Obama took them off after the election.
Another pronounced polling drop came in April 2014, which lines up with the Boko Haram kidnappings and the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag idiocy. The share of respondents who thought America was winning rarely broke 30% again after that.
It’s not surprising to see the one of the biggest positive jumps in public opinion coinciding with the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011.
Terrorism is a sour subject. Its perpetrators want civilized people to feel paranoid. A constant drip of bad news with few perceived victories naturally makes people feel like the war on terror is being lost. When confident savages boast of victory, and no one makes them eat their words, it is depressing even if there are no big attacks happening on U.S. soil.
The sense that terrorists have the initiative, while our government plays defense and scrambles to respond to their actions, makes us think the battle is out of our control. Even the remarkable string of recent law-enforcement successes against incipient terror attacks provides little comfort; it is the menacing specter of bloody massacres averted at the last moment by FBI agents that lingers in the public imagination. The next President will face a tall order in restoring Americans’ confidence in the War on Terror.