U.S. News

Americans fear random violence more than foreign terrorism: poll

Officials take crime scene photos two days after two explosions hit the Boston Marathon in Boston, Massachusetts April 17, 2013. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Most Americans see the biggest threat to public safety coming from random acts of violence committed by other Americans, rather than foreign terrorism, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken in the two days since the Boston Marathon bombing.

The poll suggested that Americans have been left on edge following a string of attacks, at a Colorado movie theater, at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, at a Connecticut elementary school and now at the Boston Marathon, all since July.

Asked which events pose the biggest threat to the safety of average Americans, 56 percent of respondents said random acts of violence, such as mass shootings, committed by Americans; 32 percent said foreign terrorism committed by non-Americans; and 13 percent said politically or religiously motivated domestic terrorism committed by Americans.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they believed an incident like the Boston Marathon attack could happen in their area. A minority of respondents, 42 percent, said the Boston incident had left them more fearful for the safety of themselves and their families.

Two bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday in the worst attack on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001. The attack killed three people, injured 176 others and left 10 people with amputated limbs.

The incident followed three mass shootings that have shaken the country. In July, a gunman opened fire at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado; the next month, a gunman opened fire at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin; and in December, a man forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School where he shot and killed 20 children and six adults.

If Americans are fearful of another attack on U.S. soil, they are also overwhelmingly positive about the response of their elected officials. In the aftermath of the Boston attack, more than two-thirds of poll respondents approve of President Barack Obama and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s handling of the crisis.

At the same time, more than half voiced concern that events like the Boston bombing would lead to infringements into their rights as American citizens.

The poll was conducted online between April 16 and 17. There were 520 respondents. The precision of this poll is measured using a credibility interval and is accurate to within 4.9 percent.

Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Lisa Shumaker