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Uh-oh, terror puts dampener on US travel plans

June 23, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Are Americans going to stay home next year? Maybe. Close to half of American adults surveyed in a new Gallup poll say concerns about terrorism have made them less willing to travel overseas and almost one third say they are less willing to fly anywhere at all.

The exact figures are: 46% of US adults say fear of terrorism has made them less willing to travel overseas (up 8 percentage points since July 2011, when Gallup last asked the question) and 32% say they are less willing to fly on an aeroplane (up from 24% in July 2011). Additionally, 38% of Americans say they are less willing to attend large events, for the same reason.

This is the highest level of public concern in the US recorded since Gallup began asking the question after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York in 2001. The latest information is very recent; it derives from Gallup’s latest survey conducted this month, 7-11 June 2017.

The record-high percentage of Americans avoiding large events comes on the heels of the 22 May terrorist attack on concertgoers in Manchester, England, and the 3 June attack at a crowded bridge and restaurants in London.

The good old days. American tourists venture out


Tour operators and airlines serving Australia can console themselves with the legendary resilience of Aussies when it comes to travel. Flight Centre noted last week the tendency of Australians to switch destinations when trouble strikes, rather than give up travel. Explosions in Bali made some switch to Fiji, but it didn’t put them off travel. Even so, Flight Centre also noted that overall travel to France by Australians dropped 17% last year, as continuing issues with terrorism and several attacks across Paris and Nice from 2014 onward shook consumer confidence in one of the travel retailer’s most popular destinations.

In the US context, immediately after 9/11, 30% of Americans expressed reluctance to attend crowded events. That level of concern persisted throughout the first year after those attacks but dipped in polls conducted five years and 10 years later – to 23% and 27%, respectively.

With the recent events in England fresh in people’s minds, however, concern about attending crowded events is at a new high. Memories of other terrorist attacks on US soil, including the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the 2016 shooting at the crowded Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, also may be increasing Americans’ fears, Gallup surmises.

Since 9/11, Gallup periodically has asked Americans about their willingness to venture into four public situations in light of concerns that they may have about terrorism. In addition to attending events where there are thousands of people, the situations are travelling overseas, flying on airliners and going into skyscrapers.

Americans’ reluctance to participate in the last three activities is not at a record high, but it is heightened compared with Gallup’s measures in 2011.

For example, although 46% say they are less likely to travel overseas, the number of Americans who were actually planning to do so in the first place is unknown. Thus, these results may overstate how many people actually have modified their behaviour because of terrorism concerns.

The survey found that 60% of Americans believe it is very or somewhat likely that a terrorist attack will occur in the United States within the next several weeks. This is up sharply from 38% in August 2011 and 45% in June 2015.

At the same time, just slightly more Americans today (42%) than in 2011 (38%) say they are very or somewhat worried that they or a family member will be a victim of terrorism. This percentage is down from 51% in 2015.

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted 7-11 June 2017 with a random sample of 1009 adults aged 18 and older, living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellphone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

Written by Peter Needham

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