Shortly Before Texas Diagnosis, Four in Ten Americans Believed Ebola Represented a Threat to Public Health in the U.S.

    NEW YORK , N.Y. – October 2, 2014 – With Tuesday’s announcement that a patient in Dallas, TX has been diagnosed with Ebola, much discussion has since revolved around looking ahead – containing the disease and preventing it from becoming an outbreak. Looking back, on the other hand, shows that as little as two weeks before the first diagnosed case within our borders, four in ten Americans (40%) perceived Ebola as a major or moderate threat to public health in the United States. Nearly half (47%) rated it either a minimal threat or no threat, while 13% were unsure.

    Looking at other viruses and diseases evaluated in the study, more Americans expressed concerns that Hepatitis C (48%) and West Nile Virus (47%) represented major/moderate threats to public health in the U.S, while slightly fewer said the same of H1N1/Swine Flu (37%). Fewer still expressed concerns that SARS or Measles (28% each) represented such a threat, while one-fourth (25%) expressed such concerns over Rabies.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,543 adults surveyed online between September 10 and 17, 2014. It should be noted that while all interviews were conducted prior to the diagnosed case in Texas, the World Health Organization (WHO) had declared the Ebola epidemic in West Africa an international health emergency several weeks earlier.

    While many of the viruses discussed within the survey varied by generation in terms of whether they represent a threat to public health in the U.S., no significant differences emerged for Ebola (39% Millennials, 37% Gen Xers, 42% Baby Boomers, 41% Matures).

    Different story when looking at the issue worldwide

    When the same respondents were asked more broadly to describe how much of a threat to public health Ebola and the other diseases tested represent anywhere in the world, results suggest that coverage of the crisis in West Africa had permeated the public consciousness to a substantial degree. Eight in ten (80%) identified Ebola as a threat to public health anywhere in the world, with half (51%) specifically identifying it as a major threat.

    • Here, generational differences did emerge, with Matures (89%) and Baby Boomers (85%) more likely than Gen Xers (78%) and Millennials (72%) to identify Ebola as a threat to public health anywhere in the world. Nevertheless, strong majorities across generations did recognize Ebola as such.

    Fewer than four in ten Americans self-assessed as knowledgeable about Ebola

    At the time of the interview, 38% of Americans considered themselves to be very or somewhat knowledgeable about Ebola, putting it on par with Smallpox (also 38%) and just ahead of Hepatitis C (36%). By means of comparison, just over half of Americans considered themselves knowledgeable about Rabies (52%) and Measles (51%), while four in ten indicated the same for Polio (41%), H1N1/Swine Flu(also 41%) and West Nile Virus (40%).

    • Millennials (41%), Gen Xers (40%) and Baby Boomers (39%) were all more likely than Matures (29%) to describe themselves as knowledgeable about Ebola.

    Overstated threat?

    WHO reports that while Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) case fatality rates have ranged from 25% to 90%, they average at roughly 50%. Given this, Americans appear to slightly overestimate patients’ likelihood of dying from the disease, estimating a mean of roughly 58% of diagnosed cases resulting in death.

    • Matures and Baby Boomers estimate higher mean fatality rates (64% and 61%, respectively) than Gen Xers (56%) and Millennials (54%).
    • An especially telling stat drives home the point that self-assessed knowledge does not necessarily equate to true knowledge. Those who consider themselves knowledgeable about Ebola are more likely than those who do not to overestimate the disease’s fatality rate (with mean estimates of 64% and 54%, respectively)

     

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    TABLE 1a

    KNOWLEDGEABLE ABOUT VIRUSES/DISEASES – Summary Grid

    Now thinking about something different, how knowledgeable are you about each of the following?

    Base: All adults

     

    Very/ Somewhat knowledgeable (NET)

    Very knowledgeable

    Somewhat knowledgeable

    Not very/ Not at all knowledgeable (NET)

    Not very knowledgeable

    Not at all knowledgeable

    Rabies

    %

    52

    8

    45

    48

    36

    12

    Measles

    %

    51

    7

    43

    49

    37

    12

    Polio

    %

    41

    6

    35

    59

    41

    18

    H1N1/Swine Flu

    %

    41

    6

    36

    59

    44

    15

    West Nile Virus

    %

    40

    5

    35

    60

    42

    18

    Ebola

    %

    38

    5

    33

    62

    43

    19

    Smallpox

    %

    38

    5

    33

    62

    44

    18

    Hepatitis C

    %

    36

    5

    31

    64

    45

    19

    Bubonic Plague

    %

    29

    4

    24

    71

    41

    30

    Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome/SARS

    %

    22

    3

    19

    78

    48

    30

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 1b

    KNOWLEDGEABLE ABOUT VIRUSES/DISEASES

    Very/Somewhat Knowledgeable – By Generation

    Now thinking about something different, how knowledgeable are you about each of the following?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Generation

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Rabies

    52

    49

    53

    53

    58

    Measles

    51

    36

    45

    59

    77

    Polio

    41

    35

    39

    43

    59

    H1N1/Swine Flu

    41

    47

    40

    39

    36

    West Nile Virus

    40

    39

    43

    40

    41

    Ebola

    38

    41

    40

    39

    29

    Smallpox

    38

    37

    37

    36

    48

    Hepatitis C

    36

    36

    38

    37

    30

    Bubonic Plague

    29

    33

    26

    27

    23

    Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome/SARS

    22

    25

    20

    21

    18

     

    TABLE 2a

    THREAT TO PUBLIC HEALTH IN THE U.S. – Summary Grid

    How much of a threat to public health in the United States do you believe each of the following represent?

    Base: All adults

     

    Major/Moderate threat (NET)

    Major threat

    Moderate threat

    Minimal/No threat (NET)

    Minimal threat

    No threat – no live cases in the U.S.

    Not sure

    Hepatitis C

    %

    48

    10

    37

    38

    34

    4

    15

    West Nile Virus

    %

    47

    9

    38

    40

    35

    5

    13

    Ebola

    %

    40

    13

    27

    47

    35

    12

    13

    H1N1/Swine Flu

    %

    37

    8

    29

    49

    42

    7

    13

    Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome/SARS

    %

    28

    6

    21

    49

    39

    10

    23

    Measles

    %

    28

    4

    23

    60

    51

    9

    12

    Rabies

    %

    25

    5

    21

    63

    56

    7

    11

    Smallpox

    %

    16

    4

    12

    69

    44

    26

    15

    Bubonic Plague

    %

    12

    5

    6

    70

    30

    40

    19

    Polio

    %

    11

    3

    8

    74

    43

    32

    14

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 2b

    THREAT TO PUBLIC HEALTH IN THE U.S.

    Major/Moderate Threat – By Generation

    How much of a threat to public health in the United States do you believe each of the following represent?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Generation

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Hepatitis C

    48

    43

    46

    54

    44

    West Nile Virus

    47

    39

    49

    53

    48

    Ebola

    40

    39

    37

    42

    41

    H1N1/Swine Flu

    37

    32

    37

    41

    41

    Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome/SARS

    28

    23

    26

    31

    32

    Measles

    28

    22

    23

    33

    34

    Rabies

    25

    21

    27

    26

    29

    Smallpox

    16

    17

    14

    15

    20

    Bubonic Plague

    12

    14

    10

    11

    9

    Polio

    11

    12

    9

    12

    13

     

    TABLE 2c

    THREAT TO PUBLIC HEALTH IN THE U.S.

    Major/Moderate Threat – By Knowledgeable/Not About Each

    How much of a threat to public health in the United States do you believe each of the following represent?

    Base: All adults

    H1N1

    Ebola

    Rabies

    Measles

    Smallpox

    Bub. Plague

    Polio

    SARS

    West Nile

    Hep. C

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Virus/Disease indicated in top row

    45

    32

    43

    38

    30

    20

    33

    22

    22

    12

    14

    11

    14

    10

    44

    23

    59

    39

    60

    40

     

    TABLE 3a

    THREAT TO PUBLIC HEALTH ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD – Summary Grid

    How much of a threat to public health anywhere in the world do you believe each of the following represent?

    Base: All adults

     

    Major/Moderate threat (NET)

    Major threat

    Moderate threat

    Minimal/No threat (NET)

    Minimal threat

    No threat – no live cases in the world

    Not sure

    Ebola

    %

    80

    51

    29

    10

    8

    2

    10

    West Nile Virus

    %

    65

    24

    41

    21

    19

    2

    14

    H1N1/Swine Flu

    %

    64

    21

    43

    22

    20

    2

    14

    Hepatitis C

    %

    62

    21

    41

    22

    20

    2

    16

    Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome/SARS

    %

    57

    20

    37

    22

    20

    2

    22

    Measles

    %

    56

    15

    41

    29

    26

    3

    15

    Smallpox

    %

    50

    16

    33

    35

    27

    7

    16

    Rabies

    %

    47

    13

    34

    38

    35

    3

    15

    Polio

    %

    46

    14

    32

    38

    31

    6

    17

    Bubonic Plague

    %

    38

    14

    23

    41

    32

    10

    21

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 3b

    THREAT TO PUBLIC HEALTH ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD

    Major/Moderate Threat – By Generation

    How much of a threat to public health anywhere in the world do you believe each of the following represent?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Generation

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Ebola

    80

    72

    78

    85

    89

    West Nile Virus

    65

    59

    67

    67

    71

    H1N1/Swine Flu

    64

    57

    65

    67

    74

    Hepatitis C

    62

    56

    60

    67

    64

    Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome/SARS

    57

    48

    61

    61

    58

    Measles

    56

    48

    55

    61

    64

    Smallpox

    50

    45

    47

    55

    52

    Rabies

    47

    47

    44

    47

    49

    Polio

    46

    44

    44

    49

    45

    Bubonic Plague

    38

    33

    35

    41

    43

     

    TABLE 3c

    THREAT TO PUBLIC HEALTH ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD

    Major/Moderate Threat – By Knowledgeable/Not About Each

    How much of a threat to public health anywhere in the world do you believe each of the following represent?

    Base: All adults

    H1N1

    Ebola

    Rabies

    Measles

    Smallpox

    Bub. Plague

    Polio

    SARS

    West Nile

    Hep. C

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Virus/Disease indicated in top row

    71

    59

    85

    76

    52

    41

    63

    49

    55

    46

    40

    37

    54

    40

    70

    53

    74

    59

    70

    57


    TABLE 4a

    PERCEIVED FATALITY RATE

    Mean % of People who Contract Each Perceived as Dying From it or Complications – By Generation

    And to the best of your knowledge, what is the fatality rate for each of the following? Which is to say, the percentage of people who contract each of the following diseases and go on to die of the disease or complications stemming from it. Even if you don’t know much about one or more of the following, please provide your best guess.

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Generation

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    Mean estimated fatality rates (%)

    Ebola

    57.9

    54

    55.7

    60.9

    63.9

    Bubonic Plague

    43.0

    44

    43.2

    43.5

    38.6

    Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome/SARS

    27.6

    29.7

    28.3

    26.5

    24.2

    Smallpox

    25.4

    27.6

    25.4

    24.2

    22.6

    Rabies

    24.7

    26.6

    22.3

    24.6

    24

    West Nile Virus

    24.6

    29.2

    24.5

    21.7

    20.1

    H1N1/Swine Flu

    23.6

    26.4

    25.7

    20.9

    20.1

    Hepatitis C

    23.6

    25.6

    22.7

    23.2

    20.9

    Polio

    19.9

    27.2

    19.4

    16

    12.7

    Measles

    15.0

    19

    13.9

    12.8

    12.4

     

    TABLE 4b

    PERCEIVED FATALITY RATE

    Mean % of People who Contract Each and Perceived as Dying From it or Complications

    By Knowledgeable/Not About Each

    How much of a threat to public health in the United States do you believe each of the following represent?

    Base: All adults

    H1N1

    Ebola

    Rabies

    Measles

    Smallpox

    Bub. Plague

    Polio

    SARS

    West Nile

    Hep. C

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    Mean estimated fatality rates (%)

    Virus/Disease indicated in top row

    25.4

    22.4

    63.9

    54.1

    27.5

    21.5

    14.7

    15.2

    27

    24.4

    43.6

    42.8

    19.3

    20.4

    31.5

    26.6

    25.2

    24.1

    26.3

    22.1

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between September 10 and 17, 2014 among 2,543 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

    All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

    Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

    Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

    The Harris Poll #91, October 2, 2014

    By Larry Shannon-Missal, Managing Editor, The Harris Poll