As President Obama prepares to address the nation about the militant group ISIS, the public has become more worried about Islamic extremism. Six-in-ten (62%) are very concerned about the rise of Islamic extremism around the world, which is the largest share dating back to 2007. A somewhat smaller majority (53%) is very concerned about the possibility of rising Islamic extremism in the U.S, which ties a record high.
The new national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Sept. 2-9 among 2,002 adults, finds that ratings of the government’s job in reducing terrorism have worsened since late last year. Roughly four-in-ten (42%) say the government is doing “not too well” or “not at all well” in reducing the terror threat, up 16 points from November. While the new survey does not ask about ISIS specifically, 67% last monthidentified the militant group in Iraq and Syria as a “major threat” to the U.S.
The survey also finds a shifting balance between concerns about civil liberties and protection from terrorism. In a reversal from last year after Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks, 50% today say they are more concerned that government anti-terrorism policies have not gone far enough to protect the country, while 35% are more concerned that the policies have gone too far in restricting civil liberties.
In July 2013, 47% said their greater concern was that government policies had gone too far in restricting civil liberties, while fewer (35%) said their bigger concern was inadequate security. That marked the first time in nearly a decade of Pew Research Center polling that more expressed concern over civil liberties than protection against terrorism.
There also has been a shift in views about whether Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its followers. Currently, 50% say Islam is more likely to encourage violence among its followers, while 39% say it is not more likely to encourage violence. Opinion about whether Islam is more likely to encourage violence has fluctuated over the years, but as recently as mid-July, the public was divided (43% more likely to encourage violence vs. 44% not more likely).