TIME/CNN Poll: Strong Support for President, Air Strikes; Moderate Fear of Anthrax

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JOCKEL FINCK/AP POOL

The flight deck of the USS Enterprise in the Arabian Sea, Oct 11, 2001

Despite last weekís grim headlines and dire FBI warnings, Americans are an increasingly optimistic bunch. After five days of air strikes against Taliban strongholds, public support for military action in Afghanistan remains on the rise (87 percent) as does the Presidentís approval rating (89 percent). More Americans (65 percent) are expressing confidence in "how things are going in this country" than at any time since the September 11th attacks.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]According to a new CNN/TIME poll of 1,044 adult Americans conducted on Friday, October 12th, support is strong (87 percent approval) for continued military strikes against Afghanistan, and the idea of sending ground troops into the conflict is gaining acceptance as well. Seventy-one percent of those polled October 12th favor the use of U.S. ground troops versus the 64 percent who favored the idea on September 27th. Support for the use of ground troops remains high (52 percent) even when as many as 1,000 U.S. fatalities are projected — approval drops off (to 31 percent), however, when the number hits 10,000.

The public doesnít want to see troops get ensnared in a drawn-out battle, however; while 62 percent of respondents favor the use of U.S. ground troops in a "limited excursion," while only 34 percent favor their use in a "large-scale invasion," defined as "thousands of troops stationed in Afghanistan for an indefinite period of time."

When it comes to choosing a target for the ongoing strikes, Americans are united: Seventy-seven percent feel capturing or killing Osama bin Laden is "necessary," while only 17 percent feel that task is "important but not necessary." A full 61 percent of respondents say a campaign that "achieves most of its goals in Afghanistan but does not capture or kill bin Laden" could not be qualified as a victory. Unequivocal suupport is also strong (87 percent) for "destroying all terrorist facilities in Afghanistan" and for removing the Taliban from power (78 percent). Americans also see their old nemesis Saddam Hussein as a target: Seventy-one percent feel the U.S. should try to remove the Iraqi leader from power.

Back on the home front, President Bush continues to enjoy high approval ratings, with 57 percent of respondents calling his response to the terror attacks "very good." Thatís up from 45 percent a month ago. The administration is also getting high marks for its handling of the media question; 72 percent feel that "government withholding information from media" is not a problem. Freedom of the press does not seem to be much of a concern; 41 percent believe the television networks should not show Al Qaeda/bin Laden videotapes at all, while 23 percent say only portions should be broadcast.

Americans appear to be slightly less concerned about terrorism in general than they were a month ago; 32 percent "personally worry about terrorism in public places," down from 34 percent on September 13th.

The public response to the ongoing anthrax scare is surprisingly calm, if not wholly logical. While just under one half of Americans are concerned that they or a member of their family will be exposed to anthrax, only 15 percent characterize themselves as "very concerned," and another 32 percent consider themselves "somewhat concerned." A full 52 percent are "not concerned" about anthrax becoming a personal threat. That said, 63 percent say their local officials are unprepared to prevent a terrorist attack involving anthrax.

Americans disagree when in comes to bin Laden's involvement in the anthrax exposures: 40 percent believe he is behind the anthrax incidents, while 44 percent say he is not; 16 percent say they're not sure.

On a positive note, the media gets high marks for not feeding the anthrax frenzy: 71 percent of respondents say the media has been responsible in its reporting on the anthrax incidents.