Gallup poll: Americans fear cyberterrorism more than nuclear war

Edward G. | July 18, 2023

According to a Gallup poll on world affairs, cyberterrorism is regarded by a majority of Americans as the most pressing danger to the United States. A staggering 85% of respondents identified it as a "critical threat," surpassing all other concerns, the Atlas VPN team found.

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted February 1-23, 2023, with a random sample of 1,008 adults, ages 18+, living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia. The margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Consensus on the severity of the cyberterrorism threat spanned across political affiliations, with both Democrats and Republicans rating it as a critical threat at a rate of 86%. Among Independents, 79% expressed similar concerns.

Gallup's Mohamad Younis observed that since 2021, American citizens consistently perceive cyberterrorism as the foremost critical threat to vital U.S. security interests. Prior to that, international terrorism and the development of nuclear weapons by Iran and North Korea were the primary concerns. However, worry regarding these issues has declined over the past decade.

The Department of Defense also shares apprehensions about cyberterrorism. In a 2022 report, the department highlighted the significant threat posed not only by state actors like China and Russia but also by independent criminal organizations.

Mieke Eoyang, the deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for Cyber Policy, commented on the evolving landscape, stating that the capabilities once exclusive to state actors are now available for purchase on the dark web due to the emergence of non-state actors in the criminal cyber market.

Development of nuclear weapons remains concerning

The poll also revealed that respondents almost equally viewed North Korea and Iran's development of nuclear weapons as the second most critical threat, with Iran marginally higher at 74%. Concerns about the nuclear capabilities of these two countries have consistently ranked high on the threat list, although this year's responses fell about 10% short of previous record highs.

The fears of AI threat are also looming within the AI development sphere, as 36% of researchers fear nuclear-level AI catastrophe, Stanford study finds.

The survey unveiled notable shifts in public opinion regarding the military power of China, immigration, and climate change. Political biases became apparent as Republicans were more likely to consider China and immigration as critical threats, while Democrats perceived climate change as a greater concern.

The most significant disparity between political parties was observed in the areas of immigration and climate change. Immigration was regarded as a critical threat by 84% of Republicans compared to only 20% of Democrats. Conversely, climate change was deemed a critical threat by 85% of Democrats but only 21% of Republicans.

Parties agree on the importance of cybersecurity 

In contrast to other policy matters, cybersecurity has emerged as one of the few areas where lawmakers from both parties are actively investing and prioritizing.

On March 21, 2023, a bipartisan duo of senators introduced two bills designed to bolster the US cyber workforce and enhance the federal government's ability to combat cyber threats.

Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) sponsored the legislation, which proposes the establishment of pilot programs within the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. These programs would recruit qualified civilian cybersecurity professionals to serve in a reserve capacity.

The primary objective of these programs is to ensure that the government possesses the necessary cyber expertise to effectively "defeat, deter, or respond to malicious cyber activity," as stated in a press release.

Rosen expressed her views on the bipartisan legislation, emphasizing that it will enable the U.S. government to tap into the existing cybersecurity talent in the private sector, thereby aiding in the prevention and swift response to cyberattacks.

Since 2022, lawmakers have introduced and successfully passed several other bipartisan bills addressing cybersecurity concerns, particularly those aimed at safeguarding critical infrastructure such as the healthcare and energy sectors.

Edward G.

Edward G.

Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. My mission is to scan the ever-evolving cybercrime landscape to inform the public about the latest threats.

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