Data Note: Update On Public Confidence In U.S. Health Institutions To Deal With Ebola

The October Kaiser Health Tracking Poll found that majorities of the public – including at least 6 in 10 Republicans, Democrats, and independents – said that if a case of Ebola were diagnosed in their area, they would have a “great deal” or a “fair amount” of confidence in state, local, and federal health authorities to contain the disease and prevent it from spreading. In that poll, a somewhat larger share expressed confidence in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC (73 percent) than in their local hospitals (64 percent) and state or local health departments (62 percent). The tracking poll was in the field October 8-14, during which time it was revealed that a nurse in Dallas contracted Ebola from the first U.S. patient to be treated there. The survey came out of the field before the October 15 announcement that a second nurse had been diagnosed, and before widespread news coverage of the fact that the CDC had cleared the second nurse to fly on a commercial airline flight. Given the evolving news story, we re-surveyed the public from October 17-19 to determine whether confidence in health authorities to prevent the spread of Ebola has changed in light of more recent developments.

The more recent poll finds that confidence in the CDC fell, from 73 percent who expressed at least a “fair amount” of confidence in the earlier poll to 62 percent in the later poll. The survey also indicates that the issue of Ebola may be increasingly viewed through a political lens, as the drop in confidence was most pronounced among Republicans (from 70 percent to 50 percent), though there was also a more modest but statistically significant decrease among Democrats (from 79 percent to 70 percent). Levels of confidence in local hospitals and state and local health departments remained similar across the two polls, though the share of Republicans expressing confidence in their local hospitals also decreased somewhat between the first poll and the second (from 64 percent to 52 percent). The U.S. Ebola news story is likely to continue to evolve in the coming weeks and months, and we will continue to measure the public’s views on the issue in future tracking polls.

TABLE: Confidence In Health Authorities To Prevent Spread Of Ebola, Oct. 8-14 vs. Oct. 17-19
If a case of Ebola were diagnosed in your area, how much confidence would you have in each of the following to contain the disease and prevent it from spreading? (Percent who say they would have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of confidence in each)
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC
    Oct. 8-14 73% 70% 72% 79%
    Oct. 17-19 62% 50% 65% 70%
    Change (percentage points) -11* -20* -7 -9*
Your local hospitals
    Oct. 8-14 64% 64% 60% 69%
    Oct. 17-19 62% 52% 63% 71%
    Change (percentage points) -2 -12* +3 +2
Your state or local health department
    Oct. 8-14 62% 61% 61% 67%
    Oct. 17-19 58% 53% 56% 63%
    Change (percentage points) -4 -8 -5 -4
* indicates a statistically significant difference between Oct. 8-14 poll and Oct. 17-19 poll.

Full results and methodology information for the October 2014 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, conducted October 8-14, are available at

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