9/11 looms large in the minds of Americans

It’s been 20 years since the events of 9/11 fundamentally changed America as we know it. And in a recent survey on behalf of Fast Company, The Harris Poll found most Americans agree it was the most significant news event in the last 50 years.

Of Americans who are familiar with the events of 9/11 — 92% are — 87% agree its significance trumps all others in terms of news events in the past half century, underlining its indelible impact on America’s psyche. 

To be sure, the attacks put security and defense into question, but by and large, Americans familiar with 9/11 feel we’re more secure since the events of 9/11 — 67% agree the U.S. is more secure after the attacks on 9/11 — with millennials being the most optimistic. 

Twenty years on, most Americans’ most significant concern center on public health:  20% of Americans chose public health threats (e.g., COVID-19, Ebola, food safety) as the biggest threat to America’s safety and security today — the most frequently chosen option.

But they also believe another attack of the same scale could happen on American soil in their lifetime: 84% agree another attack at the scale of 9/11 could happen in the U.S. during my lifetime.

And as it turns out, Americans are just as concerned about terrorism on local soil as they are about threats from abroad: as many Americans (13%) chose “future terrorist attacks by Americans/people living in the U.S.” as the most pressing threat as did Americans who chose “Future terrorist attacks by Americans/people living in the U.S.” (13%) — indicating the scepter of terrorism is still close to home.


This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Fast Company between August 20-24, 2021, among 1,053 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. For more information on methodology, please contact Dami Rosanwo.

Download the full data tables here.