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Most say Obama can handle terror threat, poll finds

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Poll: Majority also favor body scans
  • Nearly two-thirds have moderate or great deal of confidence in president's handling of terrorism
  • Majority in survey say full-body scanners should be used in airports
  • Poll indicates no increase in overall concern about terrorism
  • Findings come after Christmas Day attempt to blow up a U.S. jet

Washington (CNN) -- In the wake of the Christmas Day attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner, most Americans remain confident the Obama administration can protect the country from terrorism, according to a new national poll.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Monday also indicates the vast majority of Americans believe that full-body scanners should be used in airports across the country.

Nearly two-thirds of people questioned in the poll said they have a moderate or great deal of confidence in the administration to protect the public from future terrorist attacks, up 2 percentage points from August. Thirty-five percent said they have not much or no confidence, down 1 percentage point from August.

Read the full poll results (PDF)

A number of Republicans have criticized President Obama over his handling of the attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Detroit, Michigan. But according to the survey, 57 percent approve of the way Obama has responded, while 39 percent disapprove of how he handled the situation.

"Only a third of Republicans have a positive view of Obama on this matter, but the key for the administration is the 55 percent of independents who approve of how the president responded to the incident on Christmas Day," said Keating Holland, CNN's polling director.

The poll also indicates no increase in overall concern about terrorism.

"In October, about a third said they were worried that a family member would become a victim of terrorism, and that number is unchanged in the wake of the attempted attack in December," Holland said.

"The public seems to react calmly to individual incidents, possibly because most Americans believe that the government cannot prevent every single terrorist plot from occurring."

Six in 10 said terrorists always will find a way to launch an attack, no matter what the government does, he added -- identical to the number who felt that way during the Bush administration.

The poll indicates a majority, 57 percent, think suspect Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab should be tried in military court and not a civilian criminal court. Forty-two percent back handling the case in civilian court.

According to the survey, Americans also are split on whether heads should roll as a result of the attempted bombing of the airliner. Forty-six percent questioned feel that top officials in the federal agencies responsible for handling the issue of terrorism should be fired, while 51 percent said no.

The poll indicates that nearly eight in 10 believe full-body scanners should be used in U.S. airports, while 15 percent said they would refuse to go through one of the machines if asked to do so.

"Most Americans don't see full-body scanners as a health risk, and more than seven in 10 say they would be unconcerned if asked to go through one at an airport," Holland said.

"Women in particular seem to prefer the idea of a full-body scanner to being frisked by a security guard, even when the question makes clear that the guard doing the manual pat-down would also be a woman."

The CNN/Opinion Research poll was conducted Friday through Sunday, with 1,021 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

CNN deputy political director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.