Americans Predict Major Terrorist Attack on U.S. In Next Decade

    NEW YORK , N.Y. – January 6, 2011 – A new Harris Poll measures how many people expect various events will happen in the next decade, in the next 50 years and in the rest of the 21st century. Large majorities believe that all 15 events on the list will happen eventually and that many of them will happen sometime in this century. However, only one of them – a major terrorist attack on the U.S. – is seen by a majority (54%) as likely to happen in the next ten years.

    Other events that are seen as likely to occur in the next ten years by sizable minorities are electing a female president (35%), China replacing the U.S. as the world’s most powerful economic country (30%), a biological or chemical attack on the U.S. (29%), and that global warming and climate change will have a big impact (22%).

    At the other (least likely) end of the spectrum, very few people expect that in the next decade there will be an end to the obesity epidemic (7%), a nuclear war (8%), a revolution overthrowing the U.S. government (8%), or that smoking tobacco will almost disappear (9%).

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,331 adults surveyed online between December 6 and 13, 2010.

    The Next 50 Years

    Majorities of all adults believe that the following are likely to occur in the next 50 years:

    • A major terrorist attack on the U.S. (79%);
    • A female will be president (82%);
    • China will replace the U.S. as the world’s most powerful economic country (62%);
    • An attack on the U.S. using chemical or biological weapons (60%);
    • Most energy in the U.S. will come from renewable sources (52%); and
    • A cure for cancer (52%).

    Later This Century

    Majorities of all adults believe that the following are likely to happen in the next 90 years:

    • Global warming and climate change will have a big impact (70%);
    • A new political party will replace the Republicans or the Democrats as one of the two largest parties (62%);
    • A massive water shortage (63%); and
    • Life expectancy will be 100 years or more (63%).

    Most people (75%) believe that that eventually human life on Earth will end, but only 19% think that will happen in the 21st century.

    So What?

    This data represent predictions, not forecasts. And, history is littered with forecasts by the best and the brightest that proved to be completely wrong, including: everything that can be invented has been invented (1899, Charles Duell) it will be years – not in my time – before a woman will become prime minister (1969, Margaret Thatcher) that Virus (HIV) is a pussycat (1988, Peter Duesberg), Reagan does not have that presidential look (1964, United Artists executive) man will not fly for 50 years (1901, Wilbur Wright) the light bulb is a conspicuous failure (1880, Henry Morton) data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year (1957, Prentice Hall) radio has no future (1897, Lord Kelvin) space travel is utter bilge (1956, Richard Wooley) and fooling around with alternating current is just a waste of time (1889, Thomas Edison).

    One other point is worth making. Contrary to some other polls, this survey finds that almost everyone (84%) believes that global warming and climate change will eventually have a big impact. The question is not if but when. The split is between those who believe that it will have an impact in the next 50 years (49%) – of whom 22% think it will happen in the next decade – and those who think it will happen later in the future (35%).

     

    TABLE 1

    DECADE PREDICTIONS SUMMARY

    For each of the following items, please say when you believe each will happen.

    Base: All adults

    In the next 10 years

    In the next 11-50 years

    Later this century (51-90 years)

    Not in this century

    Never

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    A major terrorist attack on the U.S.

    54

    25

    8

    7

    6

    A female will be U.S. president

    35

    47

    9

    4

    5

    China will replace the U.S. as the world’s most powerful economic country

    30

    32

    17

    11

    11

    An attack on the U.S. using chemical or biological weapons

    29

    31

    16

    15

    9

    Global warming and climate change will have a big impact

    22

    27

    21

    14

    16

    A new political party will replace the Republicans or Democrats as one of the two largest parties

    15

    30

    17

    23

    15

    Most energy in the U.S. will come from renewable sources (wing, solar, etc)

    13

    39

    30

    13

    6

    A cure for cancer

    12

    40

    25

    13

    11

    A massive water shortage

    11

    28

    24

    26

    11

    Smoking tobacco will almost disappear in the U.S.

    9

    23

    17

    22

    30

    A nuclear war

    8

    21

    19

    31

    21

    A revolution will overthrow the U.S. government

    8

    14

    13

    34

    31

    Life expectancy will be 100 years or more

    8

    29

    26

    23

    14

    An end to the obesity epidemic

    7

    22

    19

    24

    29

    The end of human life on Earth

    4

    6

    9

    56

    24

    Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 2

    DECADE PREDICTIONS SUMMARY OF IN THE NEXT 10 YEARS

    For each of the following items, please say when you believe each will happen.

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Generation

    Echo Boomers (18-33)

    Gen X (34-45)

    Baby Boomers (46-64)

    Matures (65+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    A major terrorist attack on the U.S.

    54

    42

    54

    60

    66

    A female will be U.S. president

    35

    25

    33

    42

    40

    China will replace the U.S. as the world’s most powerful economic country

    30

    26

    32

    32

    32

    An attack on the U.S. using chemical or biological weapons

    29

    23

    29

    34

    32

    Global warming and climate change will have a big impact

    22

    21

    24

    21

    20

    A new political party will replace the Republicans or Democrats as one of the two largest parties

    15

    10

    15

    18

    19

    Most energy in the U.S. will come from renewable sources (wing, solar, etc)

    13

    14

    13

    12

    13

    A cure for cancer

    12

    12

    11

    11

    15

    A massive water shortage

    11

    13

    11

    11

    11

    Smoking tobacco will almost disappear in the U.S.

    9

    8

    10

    7

    11

    A nuclear war

    8

    8

    8

    9

    9

    A revolution will overthrow the U.S. government

    8

    12

    9

    7

    5

    Life expectancy will be 100 years or more

    8

    7

    8

    10

    7

    An end to the obesity epidemic

    7

    7

    7

    6

    7

    The end of human life on Earth

    4

    8

    5

    2

    2

    Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between December 6 to 13, 2010 among 2,331 adults (aged 18 and over). 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 also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

    All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

    Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

    J39118

    Q830

    The Harris Poll® #2, January 6, 2011

    By Humphrey Taylor, Chairman, The Harris Poll