Almost half of Americans feel less safe now than before 9/11 attacks, poll says

Dylan Stableford, Yahoo News
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Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, alternatively known as Abu Ala al-Afri, was a senior Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) official who reintegrated himself into ISIL following his release from prison in early 2012 and traveled to Syria to work in a Syria-based ISIL network. Al-Qaduli joined al-Qaida in 2004 under the command of now deceased al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and served as al-Zarqawiâs deputy and the AQI amir (leader) of Mosul, Ninawa Province, Iraq. (Rewards for Justice/US State Department)

Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli

On the eve of the 13th anniversary of 9/11, almost half of Americans feel less safe than they did before the attacks, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds.

According to the poll conducted Sept. 3-7, 47 percent of 1,000 registered voters surveyed said the country is less safe than before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. That's more than twice the level of fear among Americans a year after the attacks, when 20 percent said the country was less safe, and an increase of 19 percentage points from last year.

And 26 percent of Americans now believe the nation is safer than before 9/11. (Twenty-six percent said they feel about as safe.)

The poll comes after the beheadings of a pair of American journalists at the hands of Islamic State militants, and ahead of President Barack Obama's prime-time address to the nation on Wednesday night, when he is expected to lay out the U.S. plan to combat extremists in Syria and Iraq.

According to the poll, 61 percent of American voters support the United States taking military action against IS, the terrorist group also known as ISIS and ISIL, which wants to establish an Islamic state in Syria and Iraq. Thirteen percent believe such action is not in the United States’ interest, while 24 percent said they don’t know enough to have an opinion. However, 40 percent of Americans said U.S. military action against IS should be limited to airstrikes, while 34 percent said they would support airstrikes and the use of combat troops.

A CNN poll released this week found 61 percent of Americans oppose placing U.S. soldiers on the ground in Iraq and Syria to combat IS, while 38 percent do not oppose that strategy.

That's a significant shift over a year ago, when a similar NBC/WSJ poll, conducted after widespread reporting that the Syrian government used chemical weapons on its own people, found little support for U.S. military action in Syria. In that poll, 21 percent of Americans supported military action against Syria, while 33 percent did not.

Homeland Security officials testified on Wednesday that IS doesn't pose an immediate threat of an attack inside the United States, but it does "have the ability to attack American targets overseas with little or no warning."

But video of the beheadings, disseminated around the world through social media, appears to have had an effect. According to the recent NBC/WSJ poll, 94 percent of Americans said they had heard about the news of the beheaded journalists — a figure "higher than any other news event" the poll has measured over the past five years.

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