WASHINGTON - With the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks nearing, Americans are sharply divided along party lines about the threat of a major terrorist attack on the United States, according to a poll released Wednesday.
Forty percent of Americans said the ability of terrorists to strike the United States was greater today than it was at the time of the September 11, 2001, attacks, according to the Pew Research Center survey of 1,201 adults.
That share was up 6 percentage points since November 2013 and marked the highest percentage with that view over the past 14 years. Thirty-one percent of respondents said terrorists' abilities to attack were the same, and a quarter said it was less.
"The growth in the belief that terrorists are now better able to launch a major strike on the U.S. has come almost entirely among Republicans," the Pew Research Center said.
Fifty-eight percent of Republicans said terrorists' ability to hit the United States in a major attack was greater now than at the time of 9/11, up 18 percentage points since 2013, it said.
The poll results marked the first time that a majority in either political party had expressed that opinion, the Pew center said.
Thirty-four percent of independents and 31 percent of Democrats said terrorists were better able to strike the United States today than they were then. Those views were up 2 percentage points each from three years ago, according to the survey.
The partisan divide was in line with other opinion sampling on the U.S. government's ability to deal with terrorism, Pew said.
In an April Pew poll, three-quarters of Democrats said the government was doing very or fairly well in reducing the threat from terrorism, while 29 percent of Republicans said the same.
The 9/11 attacks are a powerful memory for many Americans. Almost 3,000 people died when hijackers slammed airliners into New York's World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.
Ninety-one percent of the adults surveyed remembered exactly where they were or what they were doing when they heard news about the attacks. Among those under 30, 83 percent said the same.
The Pew survey was conducted by telephone from August 23 to September 2. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.