Sept. 11: The politics of terrorism

September 11, 2012

The politics of terrorism have changed sharply over the past eight years, with a Democrat -- President Obama -- now holding a clear advantage on the issue over his Republican challenger, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

When the “are you better off” question relates to national security, Obama fares better than when it’s asked about the economy. Four in 10 voters say the country is safer since he took office; only one in eight sees things as less secure. The rest -- nearly half -- say things are about the same as they were before January, 2009.

In an interview Sunday on Meet the Press, Romney conceded the success of Obama’s anti-terror measures, pointing to “positive developments,” including “getting rid of Osama bin Laden” and using the drones to strike at al Qaeda targets.”

There is little certainty among respondents about where things would be if Romney had been president instead of Obama over the past 3 1/2 years. Some 16 percent say we would be safer from terrorism, 23 percent less safe and 53 percent about the same.

Republican attacks on Obama’s handling of terrorism were noticeably absent during the GOP convention in Tampa. And Obama’s surrogates have been outspoken in reminding the public of the president’s order to successfully take down bin Laden.

The upshot is the 51 to 40 percent advantage Obama now holds over Romney on who voters trust more to handle terrorism.

Both John McCain and George W. Bush had 20-point advantages on terrorism at this point four and eight years ago over their Democratic opponents, although those gaps narrowed as the election drew closer.

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Sean Sullivan · September 10, 2012