Today’s Telegraph has the first poll since the London bombings, the opportunity we have to actually gauge people’s reaction to Thursday’s terror. The public response to terrorist atrocities is unpredictable – following 9/11 the American people rallied round President Bush – his approval ratings went from 51% a week before, to 90% a week afterwards (the highest Presidential approval rating Gallup has ever recorded). On the other hand, following the Madrid bombings Jose Maria Aznar’s party was booted out of office, though that is widely seen to be as a result of the Spanish government trying to blame ETA, rather than Islamist terrorist organisations, in the immediate aftermath.

Today’s first poll, carried out by YouGov, suggests that the British people are more likely to rally round the Government following the bombing. The survey found a positive approcal rating for Tony Blair – 49% satisfied and 42% disatisfied. This is the first time Blair has recorded a positive rating since the months following 9/11, when he also received a boost in his approval ratings. YouGov haven’t asked about satisfaction with Blair for six months or so, but MORI’s last political monitor at the end of June, showing him with a negative rating of -13.

There is also a slight boost in people’s opinion of how the Government has performed in dealing with the threat of terrorist attacks: back in March 55% of people thought the government was doing a very good or fairly good job – that figure has now risen to 68%.

The more immediate political effect of the bombings will be on public support for anti-terrorist measures. Predictably people are far more willing to countenance restricting the civil liberties of suspected terrorists following the bombings – 70% of people told YouGov it should sometimes be necessary to restrict the civil liberties of suspected terrorists, even when there was insufficent evidence to charge them, this compares to 58% in a similar question last February. There was also more support for ID cards compared to YouGov’s last poll – up to 50% support from 45% last week. There is still obviously far, far less support for ID cards than there was last year, even given the terrorist attacks. The relatively small increase in support can be explained by a subsequent question – 56% of respondents told YouGov that ID cards would not help prevent terror attacks like Thursday’s.

The purpose of terror attacks is, of course, to cause terror. YouGov asked their respondents how likely they thought it was that they personally, or their families, might be a victim of a terror attack. The good news is that fear of terrorism seems to have hardly increased at all as a result of Thursday’s attacks – back in March 13% of people thought it was very or fairly likely that they or a family member might be caught up in such an attack, in today’s poll that figure has barely changed at only 16%. The less good news is that 11% of people say they will change their way or life either a lot (1%) or a little (10%) as a result of Thursday’s attacks.

Finally YouGov asked about attitudes towards British Muslims. Only 10% of respondents thought that a large proportion of British Muslims condoned terrorism – the majority thought that either the great majority (64%) or virtually all (23%) of British Muslims are peaceful, law abiding citizens who abhor terrorism as much as the rest of us. A majority (60%) of respondents said they thought that British intelligence should concentrate their anti-terrorist activities on Muslims, 30% said such a course would risk alienating British Muslims.

Finally YouGov asked about whether Islam – as opposed to Islamic fundementalism – was itself a threat to Western liberal democracy. Back in 2001, about a month after 9/11, 32% of people said it was a threat. Now the figure has risen to 46%.

UPDATE: YouGov’s poll included some other questions that the Telegraph didn’t print, some of which are actually quite interesting. YouGov asked their standard question on which were the most important issues facing the country, and the most important issues to people personally. Surprisingly, the issue of terrorism was regarded as only slightly more important than the last time YouGov asked the question back in October 2004 – 47% thought “Iraq or the War on Terrorism” was one of the four main issues facing the country, as opposed to 40% last October. Despite the bombing people still regarded the issues of crime, the NHS and immigration as more or equally important.

When asked about the issues that are important to the respondents personally, terrorism is right down the list with only 23% thinking it one of the four most important issues, below housing, inflation, tax, pensions and so on (There’s more on this question from Peter Kellner here).

A further group of questions asked about the performance of the emergency services, the government, and the security services in relation to the bombings. People were unstinting in their admiration of the emergency services’ response – 71% thought them magnificent, no one at all said they were poor or inadequate. The majority of people were also very positive about Tony Blair and the Government’s response – 71% thought it magnificent(20%) or good(51%), although a small minority were critical. 5% said the Government’s response was poor, 4% wholly inadequate. People were less confident about the intelligence services, 33% said good or magnificent, 23% said fair, 24% said poor or inadequate. Given that the intelligence services are by definition clandestine, 19% gave what is probably the most sensible answer – don’t know.

YouGov also asked who people thought was responsible. Bearing in mind that the survey was conducted on Friday when there was even less information than there is now, 57% thought the culprits were British Muslims, either alone or working with foriegn extremists. 25% thought it was solely foriegn Islamic extremists. 2% thought it was anti-capitalist protesters, virtually no-one thought it was the IRA.

Looking at the data tables also gives us an opportunity to see if Londoner’s answers are any different to the country as a whole, and on the whole they aren’t. Perhaps predictably people in London are marginally more likely to change their lifestlyes in response to the bombs, but despite the bombings they are the region least likely to support ID cards, and least supportive of diluting civil liberties to tackle terrorism.


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