Americans View Cyberattacks as a Leading Threat to the United States

December 12, 2017

By: Lily Wojtowicz, Research Associate; Dina Hanania, Intern, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy

The 2017 Chicago Council Survey reveals that, even in an age of heightened political polarization, Americans across party lines see cyberattacks as a critical threat.

Strong Majority Considers Cyberattacks a Critical Threat to American Interests

Data from the 2017 Chicago Council Survey indicate that two in three Americans characterize cyberattacks on US computer networks as a critical threat to the vital interests of the United States in the next 10 years (74%). This perceived threat is on par with international terrorism (75% critical threat) and the North Korean nuclear program (75% critical threat). The perception of cyberattacks as a critical threat is consistent across partisan lines: 73 percent of Republicans, 78 percent of Democrats, and 73 percent of Independents see it as a critical threat.

Concern about this threat has grown since 2015, when 69 percent of Americans saw cyberattacks as a critical threat (68% Republicans, 71% Democrats, 67% Independents). The magnitude and increase in concern over cybersecurity signal the growing salience of the issue in the minds of Americans.

Americans Situate Cyberattacks as a National Security Threat

Americans are most concerned about cyberattacks on US infrastructure (42%) followed by the theft of their personal information and finances (34%) and classified government information (23%). The Pew Research Center found in 2016 that majorities of Americans believe that a major cyberattack will occur on US infrastructure (69%) and the banking and financial system (66%).

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While the Pew survey found that six in ten Americans feel that the US government is very or somewhat prepared to prevent a cyberattack on US governmental agencies, only half are very or somewhat confident that the federal government could protect their personal information (49%) and the other are half are not too or not at all confident (49%).


The analysis in this report is based on data from the 2017 Chicago Council Survey of the American public on foreign policy. The 2017 Chicago Council Survey was conducted by GfK Custom Research using their large-scale, nationwide online research panel between June 27 and July 19, 2017 among a weighted national sample of 2,020 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia. The margin of error is ±2.4 percentage points.

The 2017 Chicago Council Survey is made possible by the generous support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Korea Foundation, and the personal support of Lester Crown and the Crown family.

About the Chicago Council on Global Affairs

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is an independent, nonpartisan membership organization that provides insight—and influences the public discourse—on critical global issues. We convene leading global voices, conduct independent research, and engage the public to explore ideas that will shape our global future. The Council is committed to bringing clarity and offering solutions to issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world. Learn more at and follow @ChicagoCouncil.

Americans View Cyberattacks as a Leading Threat to the United States

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