Americans Aren’t Panicking Over Ebola

Notwithstanding the incessant news coverage, politicians being politicians, and Internet rumor mongering that I wrote about yesterday, it doesn’t appear that Americans are overly concerned about Ebola at the moment:

A new poll from the Pew Research Center shows that just 11 percent of Americans are “very worried” about the Ebola virus infecting them or someone they know. An additional 21 percent are “somewhat” concerned. That leaves 67 percent who are either not at all concerned or “not too” concerned.

The last time a contagious disease threatened to spread in the United States was Avian influenza — a.k.a. bird flu — in 2005. A Fox News poll in October 2005 found that 30 percent were “very” concerned about its spread and 33 percent were somewhat concerned — a total of 63 percent. (This question, though, did not ask whether people were concerned abouttheir families being infected — perhaps a higher bar.)

Similarly, a March  2006 poll from ABC News showed 66 percent of people were “concerned” about bird flu, including 26 percent who were “very concerned.”

So it would seem there is considerably less concern about Ebola at this point.

Americans also say, 57 percent to 41 percent, that they have at least a “fair amount” of confidence in the federal government’s ability to deal with the issue.

That’s actually more faith than they had in the government’s ability to deal with bird flu. Back then, 48 percent had faith, while 49 percent had little or none, according to Pew polling.

So it would seem that, for the moment at least, the American people are not buying into the panic and fear mongering. That doesn’t mean the media will stop trying to create it, of course.

FILED UNDER: Health, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. anjin-san says:

    Well, except for Jenos & bithead…

  2. Mikey says:

    @anjin-san: They’re not panicking, they’re fearmongering.

  3. C. Clavin says:

    …and the entire Right-Wing Entertainment Complex.
    Which explains Jenos and Bithead…the RWEC stands in for their frontal lobes.

    “…I’d rather have a bottle in front of me…than to have a frontal lobotomy…”

  4. michael reynolds says:

    It’s a given that Fox News would behave like morons – that’s their core demographic. But CNN has been shameful.

  5. grumpy realist says:

    One of my friends is worried, but that’s partly because her employer (WHO) was making noises about sending her to West Africa.

  6. Karl says:

    It boggles my mind that the American public is more scared of the threat posed by ISIS than ebola, which is actually in the US.

  7. michael reynolds says:

    @Karl: Neither ISIS nor Ebola is a threat to the US (except in the distant, geopolitical sense). Everyone needs to calm down. I despair thinking of what Fox, CNN and MSNBC would have made of Pearl Harbor.

  8. Tyrell says:

    @michael reynolds: I certainly agree. The “breaking news” headlines, with loud volume – almost shouting. I certainly am trying to find some different news sources, even trying local tv and radio. Most of the news is confined to the latest wrecks, high school sports scores, callers selling things, and the winners of the local childrens’ beauty pageants (those are big around here). I am almost tempted to get an amateur radio set and find out what is really going on out in the rest of the country. I have a good cb, but no one uses those any more.
    It is sad the state of the news today; no professionalism and heavy opinionated. I grew up on Conkrite, Brinkley, and Chris Economaki.

  9. Karl says:

    @michael reynolds: Agreed. If I had to freak out about one, it’d be the disease that is already here rather than some terrorists half the world away. But the polls show the exact opposite, which shows the power of video propaganda I suppose.

  10. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: “But CNN has been shameful.”

    CNN is run by Jeff Zucker.

    It’s only going to get worse.

  11. anjin-san says:

    CNN has been shameful

    I can’t remember the last time I was able to watch CNN for more than five minutes.

  12. Tony W says:

    This is exactly in line with media reporting on gun violence, missing airplanes, 9/11 and every other natural/manmade disaster ( watch your local news for the “could it happen here?” story).

    Fear sells. Republicans have known it for years.

  13. Scott says:

    @Tyrell: Lately, I’ve been watching Al-Jazeera America. It’s like CNN 20 years ago. They seem to stick to news and take their time telling it.

  14. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Why should Americans panic over Ebola? After all, hasn’t the government demonstrated complete competence and integrity and honesty at every stage of this outbreak thus far? Hasn’t this been a perfect demonstration of how wonderful it is to have the government in total charge of the health care system?

    Oh, and by the way, a Dallas deputy is being held in the hospital with Ebola symptoms. He’d gone into the apartment after the initial patient was admitted to the hospital, but somehow wasn’t on the list of possible Ebola contacts.

  15. DrDaveT says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Neither ISIS nor Ebola is a threat to the US

    Today. ISIS will continue to not be a threat, for the foreseeable future.

    There is a decidedly nonzero probability, though, that this Ebola outbreak will go pandemic, eventually spreading to the US (and everywhere else). Is that where the smart money is? Probably not, but it’s a bad enough outcome with a high enough probability that it is rational to worry about it, and support countermeasures (even expensive ones) to make it even less likely.