9/11: Ten years on

Anthony WellsHead of European Political and Social Research
September 09, 2011, 11:12 PM GMT+0

Ten years on from the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, the vast majority of British adults remember where they were when the planes hit, and most think the attacks changed the world, our anniversary poll has found.

In the same way that older generations say they remember where they were when they heard that US President Kennedy was assassinated, 91% of British adults say they can remember what they were doing when news of the 9/11 attacks broke. 53% of people say that the 9/11 attacks changed the world completely, 38% think it changed the world a little. Only 7% of people think the attacks did not change much or anything.

In comparison, 84% of people remember where they were when Princess Diana died, 68% when the 7/7 attacks on the London Underground took place, 25% when Margaret Thatcher resigned as Prime Minister, 22% when Nelson Mandela was released from prison and 29% when the Berlin Wall fell (the oldest event we asked about).

The War on Terror?

Before the fifth anniversary of the attacks in September 2006, YouGov asked people if they thought there really was a 'war on terror' and, if so, whether Britain and the USA were winning. While the phrase 'war on terror' has fallen out of use ‒ a relic of the George W Bush years ‒ compared to five years ago, people are more likely to think there is a war (69% think there is, compared to 63% five years ago) and slightly more optimistic about whether the West is prevailing ‒ perhaps because of the death of Osama bin Laden, or the absence of recent major Islamic terrorist attacks on targets in the West.

In 2006, only 7% thought Britain and the USA were winning the "War on Terror", 22% thought they were losing and 50% thought they were neither winning nor losing. Now 13% think Britain and the USA are winning (up 6), 11% losing (down 11).

Terrorism and Islam

People’s views on how much terrorism might affect them remain unchanged, however. 7% of people think there is a very or fairly high chance of them, a friend or relative being caught in a terrorist attack (compared to 8% in 2006), 60% think there is a low chance (compared to 59% in 2006) and 25% think the chance of being the victim of a terrorist attack is almost non-existent (unchanged).

Neither have attitudes towards British Muslims and Islam itself softened much over the last five years. While respondents overwhelmingly think that the 'great majority' (63%) or 'practically all' (17%) British Muslims are peaceful and law-abiding, a significant minority of respondents (15%) said they though a large proportion of British Muslims would be prepared to condone acts of terrorism, down from 18% five years ago. The religion of Islam itself is still seen as a threat to western Liberal democracy by 51% of British people, barely down from 53% in 2006. 37% think Islam poses little or no threat to the West.