Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed said they considered high-rises to be vulnerable to terrorist attacks, but an even larger number, 60 percent, reported feeling safe in these buildings, the UF study found.
The findings were from interviews with 384 people walking into one of the seven tallest structures in Tampa, Fla., on Aug. 14, a month before the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"People may still believe skyscrapers are terrorist (targets) but so are subways, stadiums and airplanes and that doesn't stop people from riding to work, going to football games or flying across the country to see their family," said Brandon Moore, who did the research for his master's thesis in building construction at UF.
If anything, the skyscraper has become even more popular since Sept. 11, with the number under construction nearly doubling, Moore said. Between 2002 and 2006, 1,334 skyscrapers in the United States were built or to be completed, compared with 593 from 1996 to 2000, he said.
"Skyscrapers are the biggest man-made achievement we see on a day-to-day basis," Moore said. "They have too much symbolic value to be toppled by terrorists."
Survey respondents recognize the stature of these buildings in America's cultural and physical spectrum. Sixty-five percent said they were proud of the nation's skyscrapers, and 56 percent said they could identify cities by their skylines.
Moore said the findings could apply elsewhere because Tampa is a typical mid- to large-sized American city, which, like other parts of the South and West, is booming. Tampa has 57 skyscrapers, the tallest being the 579-foot AmSouth Building. Sixteen high-rises are under construction.
Although Tampa may not be considered a major terrorist target like Manhattan, a highly publicized incident involving a small private plane crashing into the 42-story Bank of America building occurred on Jan. 5, he said.