Women’s Opinion on Defense Policies Has Been Transformed Since September 11: Women Now Favor Higher Defense Spending, Want a National Missile Defense,and are the Least Likely to Believe that Life Will Ever Return to Normal

January 08, 2003

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Contact: Lisa Shields, Director of Communications, (212) 439 7926 or lshields@cfr.org

November 1, 2001 – Across America, support for increased defense spending is now higher than at any point in nearly three decades, and the gender gap on this issue has all but disappeared, according to recent poll results from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Council on Foreign Relations. Women, traditionally skeptical of more military spending, are now nearly as likely as men to favor higher military spending (47%, compared to 53% of men). In early September, just 24% of women supported a higher defense budget, compared with 41% of men.

Backing for increased military spending is particularly pronounced among younger women. Support for more defense spending among women age 18-49 has grown from 17% in early September to 44%. Among men in this age group, the number favoring higher military spending has increased, but much more modestly (from 39% to 53%).

Some of the same trends are evident in the growing public support for a missile defense system. Public backing for the missile shields has risen from 56% to 64%. As with defense spending, much of the change has come among women, and especially mothers. Overall, 64% of women favor developing a missile defense system, up from 52% in early September. More significantly, half of women want the system in place now, compared with roughly three-in-ten (29%) in early September. By contrast, attitudes among men have remained fairly stable – as in the earlier survey, more than six-in-ten (65%) support the missile shields and nearly half (47%) say we need it now.

Nearly three-quarters of women with children at home (73%) favor the deployment of a missile defense system, up from 53% in early September. The proportion of mothers who favor immediate development of a missile shield has more than doubled, from 27% to 59%. Support among non-mothers for immediate deployment has increased, but not as much (from 31% to 45%).

Americans have been slow to return to a sense of normalcy and women are feeling the emotional impact of the attacks more acutely than are men. In the current survey, eight-in-ten women worry that there will soon be another terrorist attack in the United States, while only 63% of men have that worry.

Women also are much less likely than men to say their lives have returned to normal (34% to 48%). In fact, women are among the most likely of all Americans to say life will never return to normal following the attacks, with fully one-in-five expressing this view. And women with children at home are especially shaken. Just 28% of mothers say their life has returned to normal, and 41% are very worried about an impending attack.


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