Of 8 nations polled, people in France and the U.S. are most concerned about the disease coming home and most supportive of a travel ban for people arriving from Ebola-affected countries
Experts are cautiously optimistic that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has entered a new phase, with the number of new cases rising at a slower rate. Even so, around 1,000 cases per week are expected, and governments in the region and around the world will remain on high alert. New YouGov research into public perception of the epidemic reveals just how big a story it has become around the world. In surveys conducted from October 23-28 in seven European countries – Great Britain, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway – between 94 and 98% of people had heard about the outbreak. In a survey conducted from October 30-November 2 in the United States, 96% of Americans reported the same thing.
People in France and the United States are the most worried about Ebola coming to their home countries. 21% of Americans are “very concerned” about a major outbreak arriving in the United States in the next year, and another third (33%) of Americans are “fairly concerned”, meaning most people (53%) are at least somewhat worried. In France, fewer are very concerned (17%), but more are fairly concerned (41%), for a total of 58%. Nearly half (47%) of British people are also worried about a major outbreak at home.
The Danish are the least worried of the lot – only 21% are very or fairly concerned.
The French public is also by far the most concerned about “you or someone in your family” contracting the disease (48% fairly or very concerned), with the United States second (30%) and Britain third (22%).
The United States has seen a greater number of Ebola cases – four – at home than any of the countries polled. However, Paris and London have also been top destinations for flights from West African countries, and both France and the United Kingdom count former colonies among the most-affected countries, factors which likely impact perceptions of the outbreak.
Stopping the spread of Ebola
People in the countries polled are generally supportive of government action to stop the disease at its source. Public approval for government spending to specifically help fight Ebola in Africa ranges from 64% in Norway to 79% in Sweden, while opposition is low (10-22%). Most people in each of the eight countries also approve of a measure that has already been widely implemented – mandatory screening (such as temperature checks) of people arriving from countries in Africa affected by Ebola.
However, there is less consensus when it comes to an outright ban on people arriving from these countries: the move is backed by a majority of the public only in France, where 51% say these travellers should be banned from entering France and 39% disagree, and the United States, where the numbers are 53%-32%.
Elsewhere, the greatest support for a ban is in Germany (47%-39%) or Great Britain (45%- 38%). Narrow majorities oppose a travel ban in the four Nordic countries polled.
Travel restrictions have varied across Europe and in the United States. While Germany has not instituted a screening or monitoring policy for people who have recently been to these countries, the United States has. Direct flights to Sierra Leone from London have been suspended, and the French government has advised against non-essential travel to West Africa.