Story at a glance

  • A Gallup poll records the confidence Americans have in the government to handle the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Relatively, people are not as concerned over the coronavirus as they were over some other recent diseases.

A fresh Gallup poll reveals “high confidence” is placed in the U.S. government to effectively handle the coronavirus, or COVID-19, outbreak. 

A total of 77 percent, or approximately three quarters of survey respondents, said that they are confident that the U.S. government can safeguard the country in the event of an outbreak. This number was divided into two groups: 46 percent said they were “somewhat confident” in the federal government to manage an outbreak, while the remaining 31 percent felt they were “very confident.”

This data was collected between February 3 to 16, which was conducted following President Trump announcing the suspension of foreign nationals who can enter the U.S. if they had traveled to China, the center of the outbreak, within the past two weeks of the announcement. 

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reported 15 confirmed cases in the U.S.

Interestingly, this poll revealed Americans feel significantly more confident in the government’s ability to quell the COVID-19 outbreak than prior global virus outbreaks. Compared to this poll’s high 77 percent of respondents who claim they feel either “very” or “somewhat” confident in federal intervention, 64 percent felt the same during the Zika virus outbreak in 2017, and a lower 58 percent felt confident during the Ebola virus outbreak in 2014.

In terms of respondents who felt either “not too confident” or “not confident at all,” 22 percent reported doubts in the U.S. government’s power to quarantine COVID-19 effectively. 

Gallup notes that this higher degree of confidence may stem from the fact that COVID-19 originated offshore.

This is a considerable drop from the same question asked by Gallup during the Zika outbreak, where 33 percent of respondents lacked confidence in the government to control the virus. The highest level of insecurity recorded with the government and mass outbreaks was during the Bird flu outbreak in 2005, recording 45 percent of surveyed Americans who were unsure if the government could handle the illness.

Gallup states that the level of worry Americans report about being exposed to the virus are comparable to that of Anthrax and the similar respiratory virus SARS. 

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Demographics that tend to make up the concerned population tend to be nonwhite respondents, low-income homes, and women. Younger adults aged 18-29 report higher averages of concern or worry over even more rapid transmission of the virus in the U.S.

However, the U.S. would also need to be prepared for a potential economic tightening as well as a public health emergency. 

Two out of three American respondents, approximately 66 percent, fear that the outbreak will negatively affect the economy. Analyzing this statement closer, it is less apocalyptic; only 16 percent believe it will have a “very negative” effect on the global economy, while 49 percent think it will have a “somewhat negative” economic effect. 

Another large portion, 34 percent, do not anticipate any serious negative repercussions in global markets. 

The Johns Hopkins University interactive map tracking coronavirus cases reports that there are 75,280 cases worldwide, resulting in 2,012 fatalities. So far, 15,030 patients have recovered from COVID-19. 

Published on Feb 20, 2020