Most Americans aren't any more worried about Zika than they were a month ago, except young women
Congress went home last week for the Memorial Day break without authorizing expenditures to deal with the mosquito-borne Zika virus, and just before 150 health experts proposed to the World Health Organization that the Summer Olympics be postponed or moved from Rio de Janiero because of the threat from the virus.
However, Americans in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll have not yet become much more concerned than they were a month ago about the possibility of an epidemic in the U.S.
There are few regional differences in concern, even though the Southern part of the United States is most likely to see the mosquitos that carry the Zika virus first. Up to now infections have been linked to travel to parts of Central and South America. Women are more worried than men about contracting the virus, which can cause serious birth defects.
But the only real change in the percentage personally worried about contracting Zika is more worry expressed by women under the age of 45 – in other words, women of childbearing age. The percentage of women under 45 who now say they are “very worried” has doubled in the past month. But despite this increase, only one in five women under 45 say they are “very worried.”
One in four African-Americans and 22% of Hispanics are very worried.
What should the government be doing? About a third think the government isn’t doing enough, but the same percentage think it’s doing about the right amount – with not much change from a month ago. But about the same percentage aren’t sure one way or the other (hardly anyone thinks the government is doing too much. Just over half say they are following the Zika story at least somewhat closely. Attentiveness has increased by only four points in the last month.
There is a fairly even division on whether or not the government should increase spending – and the usual party divide on spending questions is clear on this one as well. Republicans would prefer not increasing spending (though very few of them would decrease spending on controlling Zika), Democrats favor increased spending.
But there is a smaller division on one particular question that has engaged Congress in the debate over allocating money to fight Zika – whether to take funds that were allocated but not yet spent for protection against Ebola to use against Zika. That is a feature of the bill passed by the House of Representatives, which also approved less spending than the Senate did.
Americans narrowly don’t want money taken from the authorized and unspent Ebola funding; they prefer a special allocation. Republicans are closely divided on this, while Democrats are not.
Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.