Americans predict major terrorist attack on US

NEW YORK - A new Harris Poll measures how many people expect various events will happen in the next decade, in the next 50 years and in the rest of the 21st century.

Americans predict major terrorist attack on US

NEW YORK – A new Harris Poll measures how many people expect various events will happen in the next decade, in the next 50 years and in the rest of the 21st century. Large majorities believe that all 15 events on the list will happen eventually, and that many of them will happen sometime in this century. However, only one of them – a major terrorist attack on the U.S. – is seen by a majority (54%) as likely to happen in the next ten years.

Other events that are seen as likely to occur in the next ten years by sizable minorities are electing a female president (35%), China replacing the U.S. as the world’s most powerful economic country (30%), a biological or chemical attack on the U.S. (29%), and that global warming and climate change will have a big impact (22%).

At the other (least likely) end of the spectrum, very few people expect that in the next decade there will be an end to the obesity epidemic (7%), a nuclear war (8%), a revolution overthrowing the U.S. government (8%), or that smoking tobacco will almost disappear (9%).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,331 adults surveyed online between December 6 and 13, 2010 by Harris Interactive.

The Next 50 Years

Majorities of all adults believe that the following are likely to occur in the next 50 years:

A major terrorist attack on the U.S. (79%);

A female will be president (82%);

China will replace the U.S. as the world’s most powerful economic country (62%);

An attack on the U.S. using chemical or biological weapons (60%);

Most energy in the U.S. will come from renewable sources (52%); and,
A cure for cancer (52%).

Later This Century

Majorities of all adults believe that the following are likely to happen in the next 90 years:

Global warming and climate change will have a big impact (70%);

A new political party will replace the Republicans or the Democrats as one of the two largest parties (62%);

A massive water shortage (63%);

Life expectancy will be 100 years or more (63%).

Most people (75%) believe that that eventually human life on Earth will end, but only 19% think that will happen in the 21st century.

So What?

This data represent predictions, not forecasts. And, history is littered with forecasts by the best and the brightest that proved to be completely wrong, including: “everything that can be invented has been invented” (1899, Charles Duell), “it will be years – not in my time – before a woman will become prime minister” (1969, Margaret Thatcher), “that Virus (HIV) is a pussycat” (1988, Peter Duesberg), “Reagan does not have that presidential look” (1964, United Artists executive), “man will not fly for 50 years” (1901, Wilbur Wright), the light bulb is “a conspicuous failure” (1880, Henry Morton), “data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year” (1957, Prentice Hall), “radio has no future” (1897, Lord Kelvin), “space travel is utter bilge” (1956, Richard Wooley) and “fooling around with alternating current is just a waste of time” (1889, Thomas Edison).

One other point is worth making. Contrary to some other polls, this survey finds that almost everyone (84%) believes that global warming and climate change will eventually have a big impact. The question is not if but when. The split is between those who believe that it will have an impact in the next 50 years (49%) – of whom 22% think it will happen in the next decade – and those who think it will happen later in the future (35%).

TABLE 1

DECADE PREDICTIONS SUMMARY

“For each of the following items, please say when you believe each will happen.”

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Base: All adults

In the
next 10
years
In the next
11-50 years
Later this
century
(51-90 years)
Not in
this
century
Never

%
%
%
%
%

A major terrorist attack on the U.S.
54
25
8
7
6

A female will be U.S. president
35
47
9
4
5

China will replace the U.S. as the world’s most powerful economic country
30
32
17
11
11

An attack on the U.S. using chemical or biological weapons
29
31
16
15
9

Global warming and climate change will have a big impact
22
27
21
14
16

A new political party will replace the Republicans or Democrats as one of the two largest parties
15
30
17
23
15

Most energy in the U.S. will come from renewable sources (wing, solar, etc)
13
39
30
13
6

A cure for cancer
12
40
25
13
11

A massive water shortage
11
28
24
26
11

Smoking tobacco will almost disappear in the U.S.
9
23
17
22
30

A nuclear war
8
21
19
31
21

A revolution will overthrow the U.S. government
8
14
13
34
31

Life expectancy will be 100 years or more
8
29
26
23
14

An end to the “obesity epidemic”
7
22
19
24
29

The end of human life on Earth
4
6
9
56
24

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding

TABLE 2

DECADE PREDICTIONS SUMMARY OF IN THE NEXT 10 YEARS

“For each of the following items, please say when you believe each will happen.”

Base: All adults

Generation

Total
Echo
Boomers
(18-33)
Gen X
(34-45)
Baby
Boomers
(46-64)
Matures
(65+)

%
%
%
%
%

A major terrorist attack on the U.S.
54
42
54
60
66

A female will be U.S. president
35
25
33
42
40

China will replace the U.S. as the world’s most powerful economic country
30
26
32
32
32

An attack on the U.S. using chemical or biological weapons
29
23
29
34
32

Global warming and climate change will have a big impact
22
21
24
21
20

A new political party will replace the Republicans or Democrats as one of the two largest parties
15
10
15
18
19

Most energy in the U.S. will come from renewable sources (wing, solar, etc)
13
14
13
12
13

A cure for cancer
12
12
11
11
15

A massive water shortage
11
13
11
11
11

Smoking tobacco will almost disappear in the U.S.
9
8
10
7
11

A nuclear war
8
8
8
9
9

A revolution will overthrow the U.S. government
8
12
9
7
5

Life expectancy will be 100 years or more
8
7
8
10
7

An end to the “obesity epidemic”
7
7
7
6
7

The end of human life on Earth
4
8
5
2
2

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding

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