Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
Editor’s note: This is another in a series of “WND/WENZEL POLLS” conducted exclusively for WND by the public-opinion research and media consulting company Wenzel Strategies.
The end of the Mayan calendar in just days, reports of sarin gas production in Syria, Iran building a nuclear bomb and al-Qaida reportedly eyeing a Middle East supply of ground-to-air missiles – possible catastrophes seem to be thick on the ground just now. And then there’s Washington.
And that’s all making Americans very nervous.
In a new poll from Wenzel Strategies, a public-opinion research and media consulting company, six in 10 respondents believe there will be a major catastrophe that kills more than 1 million people in their lifetime.
The poll, conducted Nov. 28-Dec. 3 with a margin of error of 3.14 percentage points, uncovers the level of alarm by revealing that nearly 9 percent believe it will happen before Christmas 2013, another 28 percent say it will happen while Barack Obama is in office, or immediately after, and yet another 24 percent say it will happen in the next 10 years.
Fritz Wenzel, president of Wenzel Strategies, told WND: “For a majority of American voters, there is a quiet burden they carry, our survey shows. More than 60 percent of the American voting public harbors a fear that, at some point during their lives, the world will be struck with a historic catastrophe that will kill a minimum of one million people.”
He continued, “Just 11 percent said there is no likelihood at all such a catastrophe will occur.”
He said 37 percent expect that calamity to destroy lives in the next five years.
“What is more alarming is that 56 percent said they think such a cataclysm will be caused by man, while 33 percent said they think such a thing will occur because of natural processes,” he concluded in his analysis of the results.
So, what man-made trouble do Americans fear most? The poll posed choices of a nuclear explosion launched by a nation-state, a nuclear explosion triggered by a terrorist group, a major chemical or biological weapons attack, a major, sustained conventional war on the United States, a major electrical grid outage caused by conventional terrorism or a computer hack, a national electrical grid outage caused by an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) attack, a non-nuclear attack as large or larger than the attacks on 9/11, a major financial collapse that leads to widespread social unrest and a worldwide pandemic spread by a killer virus.
“Our survey shows three scenarios are thought to be strongly likely by Americans – a nuclear explosion somewhere in America triggered by terrorists, a major electrical grid outage caused by terrorists or a computer hacker, or a widespread financial meltdown that leads to sustained social unrest,” Wenzel warned.
“Among men, 53 percent said it is strongly likely that a nuclear attack on America will come at the hands of terrorists, while just 45 percent of women fear the same thing. Of the nine scenarios offered to respondents, men were more pessimistic than women about the prospects for possible catastrophes hitting America,” he said.
Wenzel found that Democrats were much less concerned than Republicans about the possibility of trouble.
“In each of these three scenarios, Republicans are by at least double digits more probable to consider these tragedies strongly likely to occur. While 48 percent of Republicans believe a nuclear attack by terrorists is strongly likely, just 44 percent of Democrats agree. While 47 percent of Republicans believe a major electrical grid outage caused by terrorists is strongly likely, just 35 percent of Democrats agree. While 56 percent of Republicans believe a major financial collapse will lead to widespread social unrest, just 28 percent of Democrats see that as strongly likely,” he said.
What does it mean?
“These findings either show Republicans overly pessimistic or Democrats with their heads in the sand,” Wenzel said. “It is undeniable, however, that Americans are now living with a fear that was unthinkable just a few years ago.
“This may well be the result of a failure to permanently quell Islamic terrorism around the world. There is no question that, while Islamic extremists have been at war with America for decades, most Americans only realized we were under attack on Sept. 11, 2001. Now, more than a decade later, it is clear that this terrorism has not and will not be defeated by the overwhelming force of the U.S. armed forces, and that we will not win these terrorists over to our point of view through any measure of friendship,” he said.
“The unvarnished truth is that Islamic terrorism is not going away, and we will likely live the rest of our lives looking over our shoulders for another massive terrorist attack,” he said.
“Another unsettling truth is that the American government is growing more, not less, dysfunctional and is less, not more, able to honestly deal with and solve its most pressing problems, including terrorism, immigration, federal spending, and a host of other issues. Taking these factors together paints a very bleak outlook for our country’s future.”