More Americans than ever before believe that terrorists are winning the war on terror, according to a CNN/ORC poll released on 28 December. According to the survey, 40% of respondents said that the extremists had the upper hand, while 74% said that they were "not at all satisfied" or "not too satisfied" with the way things are going for the US in the conflict.
Although the numbers have fluctuated over the years, the results show the shift in public sentiment following a string of global terror attacks in 2015, including the downing of a Russian airliner and the San Bernardino and Paris attacks, compounded by fear mongering rhetoric by certain US candidates in the run-up to the 2016 presidential elections. Sixty percent of people said they disapprove of Obama's handling of terrorist threats. With nearly three-quarters of those interviewed saying that they are unhappy with the progress on the war on terror, the figure dwarfs the previous high of 61% in August 2007.
In the latest Republican presidential debate earlier this month, Florida Senator Marco Rubio said that "Obama hasn't kept us safe", while Jeb Bush said that the US must "destroy Isis before it destroys us". Meanwhile firebrand Grand Old Party presidential candidate Donald Trump was accused of fuelling Islamophobia after he suggested that all Muslims should be banned from entering the US. This type of apocalyptic rhetoric may, in part, explain why just 18% of those polled believe that the US and its allies is winning the war on terrorism.
"Post-Paris, you had a saturation of news about the horrible attack there...as a consequence, if you've been watching television for the last month, all you have been seeing, all you have been hearing about is these guys with masks or black flags who are potentially coming to get you," Obama said in an interview with NPR last week. "I understand why people are concerned about it, and this is a serious situation, but what is important is for people to recognize that the power, the strength of the United States and its allies are not threatened by an organisation like this," he added.
On the only occasion since 2006, less than half of those polled (45%) said that "terrorists will always find a way to launch major attacks no matter what the US government does". For the first time since 2006, more than half of the participants (53%) said that the government "can eventually prevent all major attacks if it works hard enough at it".