Americans have become much more accepting of AIDS patients since the summer, taking a broader view of their legal rights, a Gallup Poll has found.
"A striking shift in public attitudes toward AIDS has taken place," a report on the survey concluded.
In the poll, a 64-to-25 percent majority disagreed with the statement that "employers should have the right to dismiss an employe because that person has AIDS." Eleven percent were undecided. In the previous survey, taken in July, a 43-to-33 percent plurality also rejected AIDS firings, with 24 percent undecided.
A 54-to-38 percent majority favored mandatory identification cards for people with AIDS, and 8 percent were undecided. In July, a larger 60-to-24 percent expressed the same view, while 16 percent were undecided.
Moreover, 87 percent agreed that "AIDS sufferers should be treated with compassion," up from 78 percent. Fifty percent disagreed with the statement that "I sometimes think AIDS is punishment for the decline in moral standards," compared to 43 percent in July.
On questions asked for the first time, seven in 10 people opposed isolating AIDS victims from society, and only 25 percent said they would refuse to work alongside someone with AIDS. Three in four said landlords should not have the right to evict tenants with AIDS. Forty-eight percent agreed that everyone "should have a blood test" for AIDS, but 46 percent were opposed.
The survey revealed gaps in knowledge of how AIDS is transmitted. Large majorities were aware that AIDS can be transmitted by sharing hypodermic needles or sexual contact. But substantial minorities believe the disease can be transmitted through ways that scientists regard as extremely unlikely, if not impossible.
Thirty percent said they think AIDS can be contracted through insect bites and 29 percent said, incorrectly, that it can be caught by donating blood.
The poll was based on 1,569 personal interviews from Oct. 23 to 26. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.