Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they are concerned about an Ebola outbreak in the United States, and about the same amount say they want flight restrictions from the countries in West Africa where the disease has quickly spread.
A new poll from the Washington Post and ABC News shows 67 percent of people say they would support restricting entry to the United States from countries struggling with Ebola. Another 91 percent would like to see stricter screening procedures at U.S. airports in response to the disease’s spread.
Thus far, some countries in Europe have restricted flights from these countries in West Africa, and an increasing number of U.S. lawmakers are calling for similar bans. The White House has yet to increase restrictions, with federal officials saying such a move could actually increase the spread of the disease by hampering the movement of aid workers and supplies.
Concern about Ebola, at this point, is real but not pervasive. About two-thirds (65 percent) say they are concerned about an Ebola outbreak in the United States. But while people are broadly concerned about an outbreak, they are not necessarily worried about that potential outbreak directly affecting them. Just 43 percent of people are worried about themselves or someone in their family becoming infected – including 20 percent who are “very worried.”
That finding echoes a Pew poll from last week which showed just 11 percent were “very worried” about themselves or their families becoming infected. Since that survey, Dallas Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan died, and news that a nurse who provided care for him became infected broke on the final day of the Post-ABC poll.
By comparison, slightly more Americans said they were worried about the H1N1 virus – a.k.a. the swine flu – in October 2009 (52 percent). Concern about Ebola is about on-par with concern about Avian influenza – a.k.a. the bird flu – in 2006 (41 percent) and slightly higher than concern about Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003 (as high as 38 percent).
The support for increasing restrictions puts the White House in a tough spot. Given the moves by other countries and the American public’s stance, there is increasing pressure to act. And given the very real -- but still somewhat muted -- concerns about the disease, that's significant, especially if the disease continues to expand.