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Poll Numbers Reveal Resilient Nation
An Essay by NPR's Daniel Schorr

audio Listen to Schorr's essay.

Daniel Schorr
Daniel Schorr

Oct. 28, 2001 -- You should not be surprised to learn that Americans are generally a proud people, enjoying confidence in their country and its institutions. You might be surprised, however, to learn that this buoyant sense has not decreased, but increased since the terrorist attacks on September 11th.

A national tragedy study conducted by the University of Chicago finds that 97.4 percent of Americans would rather be citizens of this country than any country in the world. That figure is up from 90.4 percent last year.

Ask Americans what they are proud of: scientific and technological achievements, followed by the American armed forces, American history, economic achievements. Confidence in America's institutions, banks, major companies, organized religion -- they have all risen. And regard for government is up sharply. For the executive branch, it stood at 51.5 percent, and for Congress at 43.4 percent; in both cases, almost quadrupled.

"For all this country has been through since September, most Americans -- 54.4 percent -- think that human nature is basically good."

Daniel Schorr

On a personal level, people tended to find each other more fair, more helpful, more trustworthy than they did in the year 2000. And for all this country has been through since September, most Americans -- 54.4 percent -- think that human nature is basically good.

Something else seems to be happening: a new sense of internationalism. According to a study by the Pew Research Center and the Council on Foreign Relations, about two-to-one -- 61 percent to 32 percent -- think that taking an active role in the world is a better way to deal with terrorism than not being involved. Now those who think that the interests of our allies should be considered are up from 48 to 59 percent.

But only 41 percent of those polled said that life had returned to normal for them since September 11th. And in a separate Gallup Poll, Americans listed terrorism at the top of the problems facing this country. A snapshot of America in a time of travail -- the snapshot of an apparently resilient nation learning to cope with an assault of unprecedented proportions.

Daniel Schorr is a senior news analyst for NPR.