America isn’t overly concerned about coronavirus but still want action

February 06, 2020, 3:00 PM GMT+0

Americans aren’t all that worried about the possibility of contracting the coronavirus, but they are prepared to take action to keep the threat as far away as possible.

The latest Economist/YouGov Poll finds a majority (61%) of Americans are not worried about the virus’ impact on them, but most are willing to have the government take action to keep the virus as far away as possible.

African-Americans (52%) and Hispanics (59%) are more worried than whites (31%) about contracting the virus. [There aren’t enough Asian Americans in the sample to draw conclusions about their opinions.] Worry is higher among Democrats (44%) than Republicans (33%), but majorities in both parties say they are not very worried or not worried at all. Just over five years ago, at the height of the African ebola crisis, about the same number worried that they might personally contract that disease.

Most are not worried about personal exposure, but nearly two in three are concerned about a possible epidemic of coronavirus in the United States (as of February 4, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the US was in the low double digits). That concern is one felt by majorities in both parties. As for whether the country is ready for that sort of epidemic, four in ten have no idea whether their local medical facilities are prepared to handle patients with coronavirus. Over a third (35%) think they are, while 25 percent say they are not.

The public is ready to take action to limit the incidence of coronavirus in this country, including several severe steps, like quarantining those who have recently been in China (65%), not allowing those who have recently been in China to enter the country (41%), and requiring employers to quarantine workers who have been in China to stay home for two weeks (61%).

Americans today put the coronavirus in the same category as ebola. Just over half would deny entry to foreigners with those two diseases; at the same time, only one in three would deny entry to people with cancer, the flu, the common cold, or HIV. Republicans, for whom immigration is at or near the top of their list of most important issues, are more likely to take a punitive position on all these questions. For example, by 36 percent to 30 percent, Democrats would allow those who have recently been in China into the U.S.; by 54 percent to 21 percent, Republicans would not.

More importantly, perhaps, Americans (52%), regardless of party, support spending American dollars overseas to fight contagious diseases, and a plurality (46%) believe it is one of the nation’s responsibilities to fight infectious diseases in other countries, and not leave it to the country where a disease is prevalent.

Republicans (47%) are less willing than Democrats (65%) to spend money, a not unusual party difference. But on both of these questions, more Republicans favor (47%) financial investment to fight these diseases than oppose it (28%).

One thing is clear in the poll: Americans are paying attention to the spread of the coronavirus. But for most, it is a general concern, and not yet one requiring personal worry.

Read the full topline and crosstabs from this week’s Economist/YouGov poll here

Image: Getty

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