Faculty experts: Professor Douglas Astolfi, historian, (352) 588-8386, or douglas.astolfi@saintleo.edu; Instructor Frank Orlando, political scientist, (352) 588-8414 or francis.orlando@saintleo.edu.

A new survey from the Saint Leo University Polling Institute—conducted since the Paris terrorist attacks—shows Americans now think of terrorism as the second-leading issue the nation faces. Americans are also personally concerned about attending large public events and about the adequacy of security measures generally.

The national online poll of more than 1,000 adults was conducted by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute between November 29 and December 3. The attacks in Paris occurred on November 3. The results were almost all collected by the time of the December 2 murders in San Bernardino, CA, (now considered terror-related) and so did not reflect feelings stemming from that event. The margin of error for these findings is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Questions and responses from this wide-ranging poll that deal with terrorism in one way or another follow.

When asked “what do you think is the most important issue facing the country today?”

  • The response “jobs and the economy” continued to hold the top spot, but the response level declined to 25.8 percent, compared to 32.4 percent in October. Meanwhile, the generalized response “terrorism” shot up more than 10 percentage points to 16.9 percent from 5.6 percent in October 2015, putting the issue in second place. The third-place issue was “homeland security and anti-terror policy,” (more domestic than global) at 15.1 percent, compared to 4.5 percent in October. Issues such as government spending and healthcare ranked higher in the fall.

When respondents were asked to indicate whether they strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, strongly disagree, or were unsure about policies and opinions in the news, these findings emerged:

  • More than three-quarters, at 78.2 percent, strongly or somewhat agree that “It is likely ISIS terrorists are hiding among Syrian and other refugees in order to enter Europe and the United States.”
  • Two-thirds, at 66.9, percent agree strongly or somewhat with “a pause in accepting Syrian refugees into the United States until additional FBI background checks and approvals are added to the current screening process.”
  • Half, at 51.1 percent, disagree strongly or somewhat that “the U.S. and Americans have an obligation to accept Syrian refugees.” The cumulative percent of those who agree with the notion of an obligation was 39 percent.
  • Just over half, at 52.5 percent, disagree somewhat or strongly that “I trust our federal government’s ability to accurately verify entering refugees are not terrorists.” Fewer than four in 10, or 36.4 percent, reported agreement with the trust statement.
  • Those who agree somewhat or strongly that they are “concerned about terrorism when attending large public events” were reported at 61.8 percent.
  • Nearly half—48.3 percent—somewhat or strongly agree that “Russia’s President (Vladimir) Putin is stronger on fighting terrorism than President Obama.
  • Those strongly or somewhat agreeing that “persecuted Christians in foreign lands, living in fear for their lives, should continue to be ‘fast-tracked’ for entry into the United States” came to 45.1 percent.
  • About four in 10, or 42.9 percent, reported strongly or somewhat agreeing “I have confidence in President Obama to protect Americans based on his record on fighting terrorism.” More respondents, 48.6 percent, disagree somewhat or strongly that they have confidence in the president in this regard.

When respondents were asked which current presidential candidate—despite personal   preference—“would likely mount the strongest and most effective effort against terrorists worldwide while protecting Americans at home” they said, in descending order:

  • Donald Trump, 24.1 percent
  • Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 20.7 percent
  • Unsure, 17.9 percent
  • S. Senator (VT) Bernie Sanders, 7.7 percent
  • S. Senator (TX) Ted Cruz, 5.5 percent
  • Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, 4.7 percent
  • Ben Carson, 4.4 percent

ABOUT THE POLL: The poll was conducted by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute (http://polls.saintleo.edu). Polling by the institute is conducted on a regular basis and may also include spontaneous polling on occurring events. The poll sampled opinions of 1,007 adults, approximately proportional to state population contribution nationwide. The survey was conducted November 29 – December 3, 2015. All surveys were conducted using an online survey instrument. The poll has a +/- 3.0 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level on a composite basis.

About Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University (www.saintleo.edu) is a regionally accredited, liberal-arts-based institution known for an inclusive Catholic heritage, enduring values, and capacity for innovation. The school was chartered in 1889 by Catholic Benedictine monks in rural Pasco County, FL, making Saint Leo the first Catholic college in the state. Saint Leo provides access to education to people of all faiths, emphasizing the Benedictine philosophy of balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit.

The university welcomes learners from all generations and backgrounds, from civilian occupations and the armed forces, and from across the country and more than 60 nations around the world. Saint Leo’s nearly 16,000 undergraduate and graduate students may elect to study at the beautiful University Campus in Florida, at more than 40 teaching locations in seven states, or online from any location. The university’s degree programs range from the associate to the doctorate. Through these rich offerings, Saint Leo develops principled leaders for a challenging world.

Saint Leo University boasts nearly 80,000 alumni in all 50 states, Washington, DC, five U.S. territories, and 72 countries.

Media Contacts: Kim Payne, staff writer and media coordinator, at kim.payne@saintleo.edu or (352) 588-7233/(717) 798-1508 or Jo-Ann Johnston, academic communications manager, at jo-ann.johnston@saintleo.edu or (352) 588-8237/(352) 467-0843.