Respondents want payback despite fears

The Columbus Dispatch – September 16, 2001

Central Ohio residents expect the U.S. government to identify the terrorists behind Tuesday’s attack and are ready to go to war against those responsible, a new poll shows.

“You go and you wipe out the problem,” said diesel mechanic Roger Taylor, a 37- year-old respondent from the West Side. “We need to — excuse my French — kick their ever-lovin’ ass. We got the right to do it, and I say let’s get it done.”

But the poll demonstrates that the carnage in New York and Washington also has taken a grim psychological and emotional toll on central Ohioans:

* More than four in 10 are worried they or a family member will become a victim of terrorism.

* Almost 40 percent say they are more reluctant to travel by plane.

* Nearly 60 percent are willing to give up civil liberties so the government can crack down on terrorism.

To some respondents, the sight of jetliners smashing into America’s business and military icons was more personal: Roughly one in 10 said they knew someone who worked at either the Pentagon or World Trade Center.

The telephone survey of 309 central Ohio residents was conducted Tuesday through Friday by Saperstein Associates, a Columbus public-opinion-research firm. The margin of sampling error is 5.7 percentage points, although few results were that close.

The poll shows 95 percent of Columbus-area respondents think it’s at least somewhat likely those behind Tuesday’s attack will be found and punished.

That figure is higher than those in national polls, which found Americans more concerned about terrorism today than immediately after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, when such poll questions became widespread.

“I think we will find them,” said Melissa Pearson, 29, of Whitehall, who is on disability.

“With today’s technology and what we know of, I don’t know how they couldn’t. If it happened 20 or 30 years ago, maybe not, but they can now.”

The support for sending ground troops to retaliate is overwhelming — 80 percent of the local respondents — perhaps because 89 percent regard Tuesday’s attack as an act of war.

“I think they should go as far as possible to hunt down these people,” said William Smith, 23, who lives in Columbus. He is a full-time student at the Technology Education College, studying architectural engineering and computer-aided design, and has a full- time job with Abbott Foods.

“This is the first time we’ve been invaded. If we don’t do anything, it will show others that we won’t do anything. People whose families died will lose faith in their government.”

The president of the firm that conducted the poll, Martin D. Saperstein, expressed surprise that such a large percentage is willing to commit ground troops overseas to battle terrorism.

“I’m not sure we’ve had that kind of support in a long time in this country,” he said.

Yet the ones most willing to send troops overseas are younger respondents — those who have never lived in a country at war. Of poll participants younger than 35, 86 percent are willing to deploy troops. But just 69 percent of those older than 54 — who would have come of age during the Vietnam War and earlier — support sending soldiers.

“They know the horrors of war and the dangers of sending ground troops,” Saperstein said.

Still, respondents such as Richard Brubaker, 52, of the North Side say the risk is worth it — even though he knows the ugly realities of war from his experience with an infantry unit in Vietnam.

“I think it comes down to you can’t just let ’em get away with it, because it’ll be going on forever,” he said.

Men are about 10 percentage points more likely than women to support shipping troops to another country.

But Fred Bovenizer, 81, a retired draftsman from Westerville, wants ground units sent only “if they have a particular goal in mind and the people they are after are really there, and they can do it without killing a lot of innocent people.”

The fear factor resulting from the attacks is more likely among female respondents. Women are more worried — by 19 percentage points — that they or a family member will become a victim of terrorism.

And by a margin of 13 percentage points, women now are more reluctant to fly than men.

“I don’t think I’d feel safe in an airplane,” Pearson said. “I have the feeling a lot of people feel the same way. I think the airlines are going to lose a lot of money — especially because there are still some of those people out there.”

Almost six in 10 are willing to give up some civil liberties to help the war against terrorism.

Brubaker said if Americans give up too many civil liberties, the terrorists will have triumphed.

“You can’t let them think they’ve won anything,” he said.

But most said the sacrifices would be worth it.

Gary Vinson of Westerville, 48-year-old president of a furniture store, said, “The No. 1 civil liberty change would be profiling. I think profiling is necessary. I think that many of those things are necessary. When I say profiling, I mean limited profiling.”

Smith said, “If I was suspected in any way, or they suspected anyone in my neighborhood, it wouldn’t be taking it too far (to curb civil liberties).

“I would be willing to delay my flights for a few hours for them to check my luggage or ask me more questions. We need more checks in the system. The big, famous coffee place, Starbucks, I was told by one of my professors, have more training than the people doing security at the airports and make a dollar more an hour. To me, I don’t understand that.”

Taylor said he is concerned his 24- year-old stepson will get caught up in any long-term conflict.

“But it’s like I told him — he’s not going to go alone. I’m going to go with him.”