HUFFPOLLSTER: Americans Have Surprising Reactions To Recent Terror Attacks

The events in Paris and San Bernardino seem to be shaping public opinion on just about everything related to gun control, what people fear and trust in government. The GOP race in Iowa saw a big shake-up this week. And yes, there are more primary polls than last election. This is HuffPollster for Friday, December 18, 2015

EVENTS LIKE THE SAN BERNARDINO ATTACKS CAN PLAY A ROLE IN RESHAPING PUBLIC OPINION  - Gary Langer: “[F]or everyone who wants to address terrorism with stricter gun laws, there's someone else who sees an armed citizenry as the best defense. This sense may rise in response to external threats; the shift to majority opposition to an assault weapons ban is a new phenomenon. It didn’t appear in a pre-Paris, pre-San Bernardino poll by the Pew Research Center in July…. Even with terrorism as a concern, attitudes on gun control also are linked to political assessments.…. Other factors matter as well. Our statistical analysis finds that concerns about the government’s ability to prevent terrorism is another significant independent factor in views on banning assault weapons. So are political ideology, gender and age – with, perhaps surprisingly, young people more apt to oppose a ban on these weapons.” [ABC]

Support for assault weapons ban at 20-year low - HuffPollster: "Americans’ support for banning assault weapons, once near-universal, is now at a record low, a new survey shows. President Barack Obama renewed his call for such a ban earlier this month, saying in a speech that the U.S. needs 'to make it harder for people to buy powerful assault weapons like the ones that were used in San Bernardino.' But in a Washington Post/ABC News poll released Wednesday morning, just 45 percent want to ban the weapons, down from 80 percent in 1994. Support for such a ban has decreased in the past two decades, though a majority still backed one as recently as two years ago. A recent New York Times/CBS News survey also found majority opposition to an assault weapon ban for the first time in at least two decades." [HuffPost]

MOST DOUBT GOVERNMENT CAN STOP ATTACKS  - Scott Clement: "More than three-quarters of Americans doubt the nation’s ability to stop ‘lone wolf’ terrorist attacks by individuals acting on their own.....While 43 percent have at least a 'good amount' of confidence in the U.S. government’s ability to stop a large-scale, organized attack by a foreign group, only 22 percent said the same about stopping “lone wolf” attacks, in which individuals decide to act on their own. Forty-two percent of adults said they are very or somewhat worried about themselves or a family member becoming a victim of terrorism." [WashPost]

Terrorism now tops list of concerns - Rebecca Riffkin: "About one in six Americans, 16%, now identify terrorism as the most important U.S. problem, up from just 3% in early November. This is the highest percentage of Americans to mention terrorism in a decade, although it is still lower than the 46% measured after 9/11. Before 2001, terrorism barely registered as the most important problem facing the country." [Gallup]

Concern affecting Obama’s ratings and more - Mark Murray: "The recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., have vaulted terrorism and national security to become the American public's top concern, and they've helped drive President Barack Obama's job rating to 43 percent — its lowest level in more than a year, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. What's more, seven-in-10 Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction — the highest percentage here since Aug. 2014. And 71 percent say the shootings and random acts of violence that have taken place this year -- from Charleston, S.C., Oregon and Colorado, to the terrorist shootings in San Bernardino, Calif. -- are now are now a permanent part of American life." [NBC]

Trust in government to protect the nation hits new low - Justin McCarthy: "In the week after the deadly shootings in San Bernardino, California, Americans' confidence in the federal government's ability to protect citizens from acts of terrorism has dropped to a new low of 55%. Confidence in the U.S. government to protect citizens from terrorism is down 12 percentage points since June, and is now 33 points lower than the 88% who said they had a 'great deal' or 'fair amount' of confidence shortly after 9/11." [Gallup]

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SHAKEUP IN IOWA - Four of six polls released this week show Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in first place in Iowa's Republican caucus, ahead of former neurosurgeon Ben Carson and businessman Donald Trump. The other two surveys show Trump leading within the margin of error. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is also having a good week, beating out Ben Carson for the third place position. Cruz's rise is predominantly a result of evangelical conservatives, who make up about half of Iowa's GOP caucus electorate, shifting away from Carson.Cruz is also elevated by backing from tea party voters. Still, there are 44 days until the Iowa caucus, and plenty of time for things to change. Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, recent polls show Clinton leading by an average 16 percentage points. [HuffPost; Monmouth, Des Moines Register, Loras College, Fox News, Quinnipiac, PPP]

STEADY IN NEW HAMPSHIRE - A Franklin Pierce University/Boston Herald poll shows Donald Trump maintaining a double-digit lead over his opponents. Rounding out the second tier, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are tied at 12 percent and Chris Christie is close behind with 11 percent. Ben Carson has faded to the back of the pack with 5 percent. The Democratic race looks closer, with Hillary Clinton 2 points behind Bernie Sanders. [Boston Herald]

MORE POLLS THAN 2012 CYCLE - If it seems like there are a lot of polls -- maybe more than ever -- it’s because that’s true. Compared to this point in the 2012 cycle, there are 44 percent more polls in the HuffPost Pollster databases for the national GOP race, the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. The latter is particularly high compared to last time -- there are 76 percent more Republican primary polls in New Hampshire now than there were in mid-December of 2011. Iowa and national polls are up by around 40 percent. 

More polls, more warnings about national polls  - CBS News: “‘National polls can be great measures of public mood or broad support for a candidate,’ [CBS News Elections Director Anthony Salvanto] said, ‘But of course there is no national primary -- delegates are won state by state.’…Some of the differences in state polls could point to real political challenges for the candidates, Salvanto notes, pointing toward the sampling choices made by the pollsters... But overall, any poll at best only provides a snapshot of a race that is still changing on the Republican side.” [CBS]  

But don’t ignore polls - Jason Linkins: “Pollsters offer us a wealth of information about the world we live in….Are you worried that the middle class is losing ground? They are! Those were some good instincts. (Did you think the middle class was doing okay? I am so, so sorry!) You should thank a pollster for doing the work that allows you to feel confirmed in your view of the world. And, more importantly, I'll thank you for picking up that phone and sharing your perspective with a pollster. It has helped me learn more about modern life. In the end, your view of the world is invaluable, and pollsters are among the few people in the media who actually, literally care deeply about your opinion.” [HuffPost]


-Americans are tuning into the 2016 presidential debates at higher rates than the last two presidential elections. [Pew]

-People worry more about losing a job or getting sick than being a victim of violence. [HuffPost] 

-A majority of New Jersey voters say they trust in the accuracy of polls. [Rutgers]

-Americans increasingly see Donald Trump as a serious candidate but most don't like him. [HuffPost]

-The public gives Congress a near record low approval rating. [Gallup] 

-Tuesday night’s debate didn’t seem to change national support for the Republican candidates. [Morning Consult]

-Democrats have more confidence in Hillary Clinton than Bernie Sanders to handle terrorism. [WashPost] 

THIS WEEK'S 'OUTLIERS' - Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:

-Sahil Kapur finds pollsters concerned about measuring support for Donald Trump. [Bloomberg]

-Kristen Soltis Anderson (R) reviews "what the heck" is going on with GOP primary polls. [The Federalist]

-Nate Silver questions whether Donald Trump's support is a "boom" or a "bubble." [538]

-Steve Koczela finds insider candidates doing surprisingly well in New Hampshire. [New Hampshire Public Radio]

-Two experts explain why polls are ill-equipped to predict election results. [Fast Company]

-Kirby Goidel and Keith Gaddie suggest some caveats to Americans' support for sending ground troops to Syria. [HuffPost]

-Christians are becoming more accepting of homosexuality. [Pew]

-Three in 10 sports fans say Deflategate was the biggest sports story of the year. [Marist]