I think there was more panic in 2008 than way back for the first AWB.
I wasn't of voting age when the AWB was implemented, but almost, and I do remember a greater level of panic than I've ever seen since. You may say, well you were young and impressionable. K, maybe, but let me just describe to you what I remember:
This was the time of Waco and Ruby Ridge. At Ruby Ridge, we had a guy (Randy Weaver) entrapped (according to the courts) by the federal gov. into violating firearms laws, and subsequently held under siege in his home. If I remember correctly, his wife and infant were killed by a gov. sniper (one shot, two kills), his son and dog were both shot and I think killed. It's amazing he wasn't. Nonetheless, with this and Waco going on, there was an attitude held by many that the government was completely without scruples in prosecuting those who swam against their tide. They brought militarized police action against domestic targets and the AWB and talk of repealing 2A were seen as just methods to an end.
So stirred up were people, that I remember conversations between home-owners saying, 'if they raid my house, you (who lives across the street) attack from behind.' The idea that anybody could have been set up like Randy Weaver was real, and people felt they were 'all in'. If you were around and a 'gun nutter' at the time, you remember how a whole new segment of society learned about how to bury an SKS in cosmoline 'just in case'.
This was also the time when new militias were being set up in just about every red state in the union not with a foreign invader in mind, but in defense against our own government. Some of these were badly tainted with racism and other extremist views, but the fact that other more balanced individuals were joining up should be indicative of the level of hostility people perceived coming from the feds.
Add to that just an awful lot of weird goings on in the Clinton administration (deaths of Vince Foster, William Colby, etc) and people just didn't know what to think.
So I mention these as high-water marks for the level of anxiety. There was a palpable sense of a government conspiring against its citizens. While I, admitted computer nerd, happened to be on the Internet at the time, most of society certainly wasn't. All they had to rely on were books, distrusted media, and word of mouth. I mention that only to say that society was more easily swayed by hysteria in both directions. Today, I think most attribute the stupid actions of the government to ineptitude more than to skulduggery.
For some good reading to put you in a '90s frame of mind, read 'No More Wacos' (a good scholarly work about the legal screwiness that still exists) and 'Behold a Pale Horse' (a substantially much less scholarly work about gov. conspiracy from the period but one that well describes the fear and anxiety of the time).
So my answer is no, it's not like the AWB before. Individuals are arguably more informed these days, there's a tide of support for gun ownership, and a realization that the best defense of 2a is a good, proactive, 'affirmative' defense.