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Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

  • Michael Bowman

Americans are registering heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats after the deadly Islamic State (IS) attacks in Paris. New polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues.

The poll shows 28 percent of Americans list terrorism as their top issue in next year’s presidential contest, topped only by the economy at 33 percent. It also shows majority support for stepping up U.S. airstrikes against IS as well as an increased use of American ground forces.

Sunday, President Barack Obama took a tougher tone in discussing the fight against IS.

“We will destroy them,” Obama said in Malaysia. “We will take back land that they are currently in. We will cut off their financing, we will hunt down their leadership, we will dismantle their networks and their supply lines and we will ultimately destroy them,” Obama said.

Refugee issue in spotlight

The ABC/Washington Post poll shows majority opposition to resettling Syrian refugees in the United States, an issue that has exploded in the halls of Congress and on the campaign trial.

“I will absolutely take database on the people coming in from Syria if we can’t stop it,” said Republican presidential front-runner and businessman Donald Trump. “If I win, they (Syrian refugees) are going back. We can’t have them, they are going back.”

By contrast, Democrats warn of repercussions if America singles out Syrians or Muslims as a whole.

“We do not want to enhance the recruitment of ISIS and the others by acting like we are going to shut our borders,” said Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, using an alternate acronym for the group.

That message is echoed by the Obama administration as it scrambles to reassure a wary public.

“Right now, refugees wait 18 to 24 months while the screening process is completed,” said Vice President Joe Biden. “And unlike in Europe, refugees do not set foot in the United States until they are thoroughly vetted. Let us also remember who the vast majority of these refugees are: women, children, orphans, survivors of torture.”

Last week, the House of Representatives voted to suspend the admission of Syrian refugees. Senate consideration will not begin for at least another week, and could be impacted by events almost anywhere.