40 Percent of Americans Say an Ebola Outbreak is Likely In US City


USA Today reports two American aid workers treated for Ebola have been discharged from Emory University Hospital this week after extensive blood and urine tests revealed neither poses a risk to the public. The virus has killed more than 1,300 people in West Africa since the outbreak was identified in March, raising fears among some Americans that Ebola could spread to the United States.

Four in ten Americans believe it is "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that an Ebola outbreak could occur in a US city according to the latest Reason-Rupe national telephone poll. But a majority, 56 percent, says an outbreak in the US is "not too likely" or "not at all likely" to occur.

Perception of risk is also tied to political beliefs. Nearly half-48 percent-of conservatives say an Ebola outbreak is somewhat or very likely, compared to 32 percent of liberals (and 33 percent of libertarians and 21 percent of progressives as well). Moderates are near the middle, with 42 percent who think  an outbreak is likely.

Women are more likely than men to say a US outbreak is at least somewhat likely, 45 percent to 34 percent.  A person's educational attainment decreases the likelihood one thinks an Ebola outbreak is likely in the US. Nearly three-quarters, 74 percent, of post-graduates think a US outbreak is not too likely or not at all likely, compared to 48 percent of those with a high school diploma or less.

The Reason-Rupe poll also finds Americans are more concerned about the possibility of terrorists shooting down a plane in the US than they are about an Ebola outbreak in a US city. While forty percent of respondents believe an Ebola outbreak here is at least somewhat likely, 47 percent of Americans are "very worried" or "somewhat worried" that terrorists might shoot down a passenger plane in this country. A small majority, 52 percent, is "not too worried" or "not worried at all" about a US plane being struck down by terrorists.

For more analysis on the likelihood of an Ebola epidemic in the US or the possibility of future epidemics, see Rob Bailey's piece here.

The Reason-Rupe national telephone poll, executed by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, conducted live interviews with 1000 adults on cell phones (500) and landlines (500) August 6-10, 2014. The poll's margin of error is +/-3.7%. Full poll results can be found here. including poll toplines (pdf)  and crosstabs (xls).