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CONTACT: Dr. Bruce Merrill 480-965-7051

For more information and analysis of this poll,
watch HORIZON tonight (9/27) at 7pm on Channel 8.


The terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C. and subsequent media coverage have had a significant impact on the mental state of people living in Arizona.

The degree of psychological impact was measured by a recent telephone poll of 560 registered voters in Arizona, conducted between September 20 and September 23 by KAET-TV and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Telecommunication at Arizona State University.

The psychological functions impacted and the percentage of registered voters reporting them is shown below.

More trouble than usual concentrating on work or other tasks 44%
Increased or unusual feelings of depression 33%
Increased fear of flying 33%
More trouble than usual sleeping 26%
Increased feelings of irritability 26%
Episodes of crying for no apparent reason 21%
Increase in nightmares or bad dreams 13%

Since many people experienced multiple symptoms, the items were combined into a psychological well-being scale (Cronbach’s Alpha = .67) which is shown below.

High Impact (experienced 4 or more symptoms) 19%
Moderate (2 or 3 symptoms) 32%
Slight (1 symptom) 21%
No impact (no symptoms) 28%

As can be seen from the scale, almost one-in-five voters in Arizona (19%) experienced a high level of psychological distress related to the terrorist attacks. Almost three-fourths of those surveyed (72%) reported being psychologically affected in some way.

The research indicated that the amount of psychological impact was related to two main variables, age and gender. As seen below, voters over 60 years of age experienced considerably less psychological trauma than other age groups. The finding that people over 60 years of age experienced less psychological trauma than other people was found to be true when other possible contributing factors like education and how closely people followed the media coverage were controlled.

  Under 30 30-45 46-60 over 60
Low impact 45% 41% 43% 63%
Medium impact 35 34 34 25
High impact 20 25 23 12
  100% 100% 100% 100%
(p < .05)        

The poll also found that women (25%) were twice as likely as men (13%) to be affected psychologically by the events of the past couple of weeks. This finding also was found to be true after controlling for other possible confounding variables. For instance, thirty-one percent (31%) of the females who reported watching media coverage very closely were highly impacted compared to only fourteen percent (14%) of men who also followed events in the media very closely.

  Men Women
Low impact 59% 39%
Medium impact 28 36
High impact 13 25
  100% 100%
(p < .05)    


The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1%. Forty-three percent (43%) of those interviewed were Republican, forty percent (40%) Democrat and seventeen percent identified themselves as Independent or "others". Fifty-seven percent (57%) lived in Maricopa County, eighteen percent (18%) in Pima County and twenty-five percent (25%) in counties other than Maricopa and Pima.

Q: Have you personally experienced any of the following since the terrorist attacks?

  1. An increase in nightmares or bad dreams?
  2. Increased irritability
  3. Increased feelings of depression
  4. An increase in trouble sleeping
  5. More difficulty than normal concentrating on work or other things you need to be doing
  6. Increased fear of flying
  7. And finally, have you had times when you began to cry for no apparent reason?

PROGRAM NOTE: Dr. Bruce Merrill will appear on Channel 8’s HORIZON program tonight (9/27/01) at 7PM to discuss the poll results.

KAET-TV is a part of Arizona State University