Many Americans and Australians think the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have not been worth the cost and are not helping to win the war on terrorism, according to new research by the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.

Almost a decade after the September 11 attacks, the US Studies Centre has conducted a major survey of Australian and American attitudes towards security and the war on terror. The responses, gathered after Osama bin Laden's death, show that the vast majority of Australians (63%) think the war on terrorism will never end with only 30% of Americans and 20% of Australians confident the war is being won.

"Both Australians and Americans are clearly sick and tired after the 9/11 decade of war," says Professor Geoffrey Garrett, chief executive of the Centre. "They doubt the prohibitive costs have been well spent and don't think the west is winning. People have moved on from the 9/11 decade to focus on their economic anxieties after the global financial crisis."

The research findings show:

  • Historical significance of 9/11: Australians are more likely to select the 2001 attack on New York and Washington as the "most important historical event" from list including key events in World War Two and the growth of the Internet.
  • Economy trumps terrorism as political issue: Only 4% of Australian and 3% of American respondents selected terrorism as the "most important" problem facing their respective countries today. In both cases just 1% nominate the war in Afghanistan. Economic concerns are paramount.
  • Bipartisan consensus: The extent to which ALP and Coalition supporters tend to agree on matters to do with terrorism is striking. Democrats and Republicans are less likely to agree but the tendency towards bipartisanship is at odds with other issues in American public opinion. The Greens and Tea Partiers are the political outliers on these issues.

The online surveys were led by Visiting Professor at the United States Studies Centre and Professor of Political Science at Stanford University, Simon Jackman, and Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Los Angeles, Lynn Vavreck. They canvassed the opinions of 2,210 Australians and 900 Americans between May 2 and May 18, 2011.