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53% Say Major Cyberattack Should Be Viewed As Act of War


Voters express strong concern about the safety of America's computer systems and think a major cyberattack on the United States should be grounds for forceful military retaliation.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 82% of Likely U.S. Voters are at least somewhat concerned about the safety of the country's computer infrastructure from cyberattack. Just 17% don't share that concern. These findings include 35% who are Very Concerned but only three percent (3%) who are Not At All Concerned. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

The Pentagon is currently considering a new defense strategy that would classify a major computer sabotage attack from another country as an act of war justifying a forceful U.S. military response. Fifty-three percent (53%) of voters agree with this proposed new strategy and think a major cyberattack on the United States by another country should be viewed as an act of war. Twenty-two percent (22%) disagree, and another 25% are undecided.

A plurality (45%) of voters regards a cyberattack by another country as a greater economic threat to the United States than a traditional military attack. Twenty-two percent (22%) still see a traditional attack as a bigger threat. One-in-three voters (33%) are not sure which is the greater threat.

Similarly, 45% of Americans said in December 2009 that a cyberattack by terrorist hackers poses a greater economic threat to the United States than another 9/11 attack on New York City and Washington, D.C. Twenty-four percent (24%) disagreed, and 32% were undecided.

Only nine percent (9%) of voters think it is possible to make any computer system secure from a cyberattack. Sixty-three percent (63%) say it is not possible to have that level of cybersecurity, but 27% aren't sure.

Male voters (63%) feel more strongly than female voters (45%) that a major cyberattack by another country should be viewed as an act of war.

Sixty-six percent (66%) of Republicans and 52% of voters not affiliated with either major party share that view, compared to 42% of Democrats.

Middle-aged voters believe more strongly than those in other age groups that a cyberattack poses a greater economic threat to America than a traditional military attack.

Fifty-seven percent (57%) of Mainstream voters believe a major cyberattack should be seen as an act of war justifying a strong military response, while those in the Political Class are almost evenly divided on the question. But then while 49% of those in the Mainstream see a cyberattack as a greater economic threat to the United States than a traditional military attack, the plurality (45%) of Political Class voters are not sure.

Most Americans (57%) are at least somewhat confident in the security of online transactions and banking, including 17% who are Very Confident.

In an effort to enhance online security and privacy, the Obama administration has proposed that Americans obtain a single ID for all Internet sales and banking activity. But most Americans want nothing to do with such an ID if the government is the one to issue it and hold the information.

Just 19% of Americans say they rarely or never use the Internet. But 44% consider the Internet the best way to get news and information.

Seventy percent (70%) of adults are concerned that Americans have become too dependent on electronic devices, including computers and calculators, with 41% who are Very Concerned.

Rasmussen Reports is an electronic media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion polling information.  We poll on a variety of topics in the fields of politics, business and lifestyle, updating our site's content on a news cycle throughout the day, everyday.

Rasmussen Reports Platinum Members get an all-access pass to polling news, analysis and insight not available to the general public.

Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports, has been an independent pollster for more than a decade. To learn more about our methodology, click here.

The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on May 31-June 1, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

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©2011 Rasmussen Reports, LLC
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