Frank Newport is Editor in Chief of The Gallup Poll. He was working at Gallup’s main office in Princeton, New Jersey on 9/11 ready for a media report on one of his latest polls.
Below are Frank’s recollections. Listen or read the audio transcripts:
I was actually getting ready to go live with a report on CNN. We had a studio at Gallup at that point and I did live reports on CNN and I remember standing up there in the studio and the topic of that day believe it or not if I remember correctly was that Michael Jordan, the famous basketball player was retiring. We had asked the American public what they thought about that and so forth so I was standing there and then I saw on the monitor that CNN had switched to some news reports of smoke coming out of one of the towers at the World Trade Center and so I said to my producer at the time , well we might have to wait a bit while they report on that and they come back to us , but they never came back to us. Of course that story became the dominant news story for weeks to come and so that’s where I was on that fateful morning.
The rallying effect:
We have something that we call in public opinion studies a rally effect and when the country is threatened or involved internationally we have found on various measures that Americans will suddenly rally behind their leaders and the country and that’s certainly what happened after 911. as an example, the President’s job approval rating within a week went up to 90% which was the highest job approval rating in Gallup Poll history, it still is after president George W. Bush and that was symptomatic of the fact that regardless of one’s political persuasion at that time, republican, independent, or democrat, Americans were uniting behind their leader. We had Congress approval which usually is fairly low also jumped up to one of its highest points in history. And other measures did the same thing.
The first post 9/11 poll:
Well we waited a day or two of course before we actually went into the field, but we asked normal questions at the time which was do you think this is part of a bigger conspiracy, that other things are going to happen, how worried are you that there are going to be other attacks. And of course immediately there was worry, but I actually found which I have found before that Americans did not panic to the degree that a lot of other people did even though we found significant worry that there would be more terrorist attacks, Americans had somewhat of a more even keel I think as they often do in the face of tragedy like this than perhaps some of the histrionic reports by news announcers and others that came out of 911.
Worrying about the economy, not terrorism:
9/11 clearly was a major factor in many people’s lives but in terms of other indicators not a lot has changed a lot has changed politically but now ten years later other things have taken over. When we say what’s the most important problem facing the country, a very small percent of Americans say terrorism, they don’t even think of terrorism, now the big concerns are the economy and the other things that typically occupy our attention.
Produced and edited by Elisabeth Perez Luna