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Africa

Africa and the War on Terrorism

Most Americans see Africa as somewhat important to the war on terrorism and support the US providing money and technical assistance to African anti-terrorism efforts. There is modest support for increasing aid for democratization and poverty reduction in Africa as a way to address the root causes of terrorism.

Though the continent is home to many predominantly Muslim nations and has been the site of several al-Qaeda terror attacks--most notably the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the importance of Africa is rarely mentioned in the context of the US 'war on terrorism.' Nonetheless, Americans see Africa as a medium to high priority in the anti-terrorism effort. A January 2003 PIPA/Knowledge Networks study asked respondents to think "about the various regions of the world that are important to the war on terrorism" and then to say "how high a priority [the US] should … put on dealing with threats from sources in Africa." A majority--56%--said this should get "medium" priority and 27% gave it "high" priority; only 13% said "low" priority. [1]

In the same poll, a very strong majority supported the idea of increasing military and police training and exchanging intelligence with African governments as a means of fighting the war on terrorism. Respondents were told that "Currently there is some discussion about whether the US, as a means of fighting terrorism, should increase military and police training and exchange intelligence with African countries," and then offered three positions on this issue. A very strong 71% thought the US should extend these types of cooperation to some African states, with a plurality of 47% saying the US should increase training and exchange intelligence "with any African government that supports the war on terrorism and that we think could help us," and another quarter (24%) saying the US should do this "only with African governments that are democratic." Only about one-fifth (19%) thought the US should not increase training and exchange intelligence with African governments. [2]

When asked about increasing aid to Muslim countries in Africa specifically as a way to offset conditions that may lead people to be easily recruited into terrorist organizations, a majority or a plurality have favored them. In January 2003 PIPA/KN found that 57% favored "increasing aid to help promote democracy in African countries that have large Muslim populations." Thirty-five percent were opposed.

Aid to reduce poverty was not quite as popular. When PIPA/KN asked about "As a way of addressing the threat of terrorism … increasing aid to help reduce poverty in African countries that have large Muslim populations," the public was more divided: a 49% plurality was in favor while 44% were opposed.

Shortly after the September 11 attacks, in a poll devoted to addressing the threat of terrorism (Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Public Opinion Strategies, December 2001) 54% favored "significantly increasing funding to help reduce poverty and promote democracy in Middle Eastern and African countries that have large Muslim populations." Thirty-nine percent were opposed.
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Recent Data Updates
Africa - August 2008 (PDF)