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Survey: Shock from terror attacks receding

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The American people appear to be recovering from the initial shock of the September 11 terrorist attacks, but many are still reporting signs of psychological stress, including depression and difficulty concentrating, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

The survey also found that while Americans support the outpouring of patriotic feeling in the wake of the attacks, more than 70 percent believe opponents of military action should be allowed to protest and express their views to the media.

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The media itself is getting high marks from the public for its coverage of the tragedy, with 85 percent describing coverage as excellent or good. About 95 percent of the people in the survey said they were following the story very closely or fairly closely.

President Bush is also getting high marks, with 84 percent of those surveyed saying they approve of the way he is handling his job. That is 33 percentage points higher than his approval rating in a survey in early September, before the attacks.

The survey, based on telephone interviews with 1,001 adults conducted October 1-3, has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points. Among the findings:

-- The psychological effects of the September 11 attacks appear to be receding. In a survey taken in the days following the attacks, 71 percent of respondents reported feeling depressed, 49 percent had trouble concentrating and one-third said they had trouble sleeping. In the latest survey, 42 percent reported depression, 21 percent difficulty concentrating and 18 percent trouble sleeping.

-- About 10 percent of the people in the survey said they had either canceled or were considering canceling an airplane flight, down from 24 percent in mid-September. Still, Pew researchers said that percentage represents as many as 19 million potential airline passengers.

-- Concern about the possibility of additional terrorist attacks remains high, with 73 percent saying they were very worried or somewhat worried. Only 26 percent said they were not too worried or not worried at all. Asked what they though terrorists might do next, 37 percent said attack with chemical or biological weapons, while 18 percent expect a bombing or an attack on a public place or infrastructure. Only 3 percent expect another attack using airliners.

-- Asked about expressions of patriotism in the wake of the attack, 73 percent said there had been the right amount of showing the flag, while 17 percent thought there was too little and only 8 percent too much. A slightly smaller number, 68 percent, thought there had been the right amount of playing of patriotic songs, while 17 percent thought there was too little and 10 percent too much.

-- Some 57 percent of those surveyed said they are praying more as the result of the terrorist attacks, down from 69 percent in mid-September. Asked for their views on expressions of religious faith and prayer by political leaders, 60 percent said there had been the right amount, 22 percent said there were not enough and 12 percent thought there were too many.

-- A strong majority of Americans support the right of dissent for those opposed to U.S. policy. Seventy-one percent of those surveyed said people should be allowed to protest military action, while 24 percent said they should not. Asked if Americans who believe U.S. policies were to blame for the terrorist attacks should be allowed to express those views in the media, 75 percent said yes and 18 percent said no.

-- Americans are split when it comes to suspicion of people with Middle Eastern backgrounds living in the United States. About 35 percent said there had been an appropriate amount of suspicion, while 36 percent said there was too much. But more than one-fifth of the people surveyed, 21 percent, said there was too little suspicion.

-- The media's coverage of the attacks and their aftermath was rated excellent by 48 percent of those surveyed and good by 37 percent; in the days after the attacks, 56 percent rated it excellent and 33 percent good. Seventy-three percent said they were following the story very closely and 22 percent fairly closely, figures very similar to those in a survey taken right after the attacks.

-- Just 2 percent of the people in the survey said they thought the media was providing too little coverage. Sixty-three percent said the amount of coverage was about right; 32 percent thought there was too much.

-- Those surveyed were also divided on the question of whether criticism of the FBI and CIA for failing to stop the attacks was appropriate. Twenty-nine percent thought there was too much criticism, 24 percent too little and 36 percent the right amount.


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