Poll: Terrorism fears fading – Potomac News Online

RICHMOND — Virginians appear largely unaffected by the national tragedies that rocked this nation nearly a year ago.

A poll of 601 residents found eight out of 10 hadn’t altered their lifestyles.

A third of poll respondents said they feel more fearful or distrustful since Sept. 11. Four out of 10 said they are angrier.

Still, they aren’t doing much about it.

For most, church attendance hasn’t increased. Interest in religion hasn’t grown significantly. There’s no rush to take new security precautions in homes. And plans for travel by air are kept.

Are most Virginians in a state of denial? Possibly, and that’s not necessarily bad, says a disaster trauma psychologist.

“In order to survive you have to use that denial mode,” said Dr. Robert R. Butterworth, a clinical psychologist based in Los Angeles, who runs a trauma consulting agency.

“In order to function we push these things back in our mind and move forward. Do Americans feel better than [they] did before 9/11? That’s a different question. Their behavior has snapped back. That doesn’t mean their psyche has snapped back.”

The poll was conducted by Media General Research for The Richmond Times-Dispatch and NBC12 in Richmond. Also joining in the poll were the Bristol Herald-Courier, Charlottesville Daily Progress, Danville Register & Bee, The News & Advance, Potomac News/Manassas Journal Messenger and WSLS-TV10 in Roanoke.

The poll found that some people saw no need to change their lives. Bernard Turovlin, 83, of Springfield, installed security measures in his home long before the national tragedies. He’s always been a regular at his synagogue and he sees no reason to be afraid of terrorists while flying or doing anything else.

“There are more people being killed on streets by automobiles than are killed by terrorists. The chances of my being killed by a terrorist are much less than an automobile accident.”

One Henrico County man said although he feels more depressed, fearful, distrustful and angry, he hasn’t done anything about it. “Instead of going to war, we didn’t,” said Dennis, a 52- year-old who didn’t want his last name used. “It seems like it’s business as usual and I fell into that. I’m not proud of it.”

Mary Farris, who lives on a farm 15 miles east of Wytheville, sees it differently. “What happened to those people I think is pathetic. But by the same token I’m 75. I’ve lived through war after war and those things happen. I haven’t altered my plans.”

Construction worker Michael Riddle, 32, of Farmville, said he’s been unaffected “except for my stock portfolio.”

Life changed for Kristi Duffer, 21, of South Boston, who now keeps a loaded gun in her bedroom. She also has a dog. She has deepened her interest in religion and attends church more often.

“It was scary what happened. It really makes you think twice about where your priorities are and what you’re doing with your life. Where else are you going to turn at a time like this? Going to church more often made me feel calmer,” Duffer said. “It seemed like the right place to go.

“As far as the weapon, nobody knew who those people were and they could have been someone who lives down the street from you, so I want to feel like I’m prepared.”

If any new precautions are needed, commonwealth residents say, they would be at their jobs. Seven out of 10 respondents approve of stricter security measures in the form of security cameras and metal detectors. Half of the participants give the nod to spot checks of their clothing and workspaces.

“That’s where they are going to attack,” said Dennis. “I don’t think they are going to attack my home. They are going to attack a business.”

Duffer, among the 47 percent to support e-mail and phone monitoring at work, said every preventive measure is needed.

“You don’t know who it could be. It could be anybody at this point. Of course you will make some people mad, but you could save someone’s life and that’s more important.”

That support for erosion of job-related privacy may have a lot to do with most Americans learning about the horrific events either on their way to work or while there, Butterworth said.

And that most Virginians endorse stricter precautions on their jobs suggests many continue to feel apprehensive, he said.

“They must feel something or they wouldn’t be asking for more controls.”

Fifty-eight percent of those polled said their employers have not taken any precautions as a direct result of Sept. 11.

Half of respondents said the government has done a good job balancing homeland security efforts and civil liberties. But 20 percent said the government has gone too far in limiting liberties and 27 percent said too much attention has been paid to liberties at the expense of security.

The government doesn’t evoke widespread confidence in its fight against terrorism. Forty-one percent said the military is very prepared for fighting terrorism abroad versus 20 percent who said it’s very prepared to fight terrorism at home.

Forty-three percent cite jealousy as the reason they think that developing nations hate the United States.

“I think they don’t understand us,” said Linda Willams, 53 of Midlothian. “The government of many of the developing nations doesn’t allow them to have a true picture of our country and they only tell them negative things and not the values our society has. “

In the immediate days after the attacks, a national nervous breakdown seemed possible as passengers shunned flying, avoided crowds and skyscrapers and feared those of Middle Eastern descent. Weeks later, Americans found themselves afraid to open their mail.

That most people have resumed their lives is part of the healing process, Butterworth said.

“The good news is Americans are putting one foot in front of the other and are going on,” he said. “The one-third [polled] that are scared, how many of them are not going to work or not going into the large groups? We may be scared but we are still going through the motions … and that’s a good thing.”

Robin Farmer is a staff writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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