Swine Flu Concern in U.S. Falls to New Low

by Lydia Saad

Women under 50 remain the main worriers about getting the illness

PRINCETON, NJ -- Even as the H1N1 virus -- aka "swine flu" -- continues to spread nationwide, with confirmed cases now reported in all 50 states, Americans' concern about contracting the illness has declined. Just 13% of U.S. adults now say they worried "yesterday" about getting this particular strain of flu, down from a high of 25% at the end of April and the previous low of 17% in the first week of May.

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According to May 19 Gallup Poll Daily tracking, the rate of concern about coming down with the swine flu is similar in all four major regions of the country. Those in the West and South, where the outbreak started, are no more concerned than those in the East or Midwest.

A significant gap in concern is seen by gender: 18% of all women say they are worried about getting the flu, versus 9% of men. However, all of the difference between the sexes appears to be among those younger than 50. While men and women aged 50 and older are equally likely to say they worry about being sickened by swine flu (14% of women and 12% of men), women aged 18-49 are more than three times as likely as men in the same age bracket to be worried (21% vs. 6%). (The lower concern of older Americans is understandable, given that the reported cases of flu in general are low among seniors relative to the rest of the population.)

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Gallup has observed the same gender/age pattern in each update of the "swine flu worry" measure since late April. As the trend shows, concern about contracting swine flu has never been very high among men of either age group. The spike in overall public concern seen in late April was mainly the result of a jump in concern among younger women, from 33% on April 28 to 42% on April 30.

Between May 3 and May 5, concern about getting swine flu fell among older women as well as among older and younger men. However, nearly all of the decline in public concern seen in the latest poll comes from women aged 18 to 49, whose personal worry has dropped below 30% for the first time since the virus was detected in the United States.

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The impact of having children under 18 at home on personal fears of contracting swine flu appears to be fairly minimal. Women under 50 with children at home are no more likely to be worried than are those without children at home. Nor does the presence of children in the home seem to relate to the swine-flu concerns of women 50 and older or men under 50. However, intriguingly, the small group of men 50 and older who have children under 18 at home are twice as likely as men 50 and older with no minor children in the home to say they are worried about getting the illness. This is according to combined data for the five Gallup Poll Daily tracking swine-flu surveys conducted since April 28.

Bottom Line

The vast majority of men in the United States, as well as women 50 and older, are not personally worried about getting the swine flu -- nor have they been at any time in the month or so that the illness has been in the news. The picture is quite different with women under 50. While the percentage of this group worried about contracting swine flu has dropped by half since late April, from 42% to 21%, roughly one in five continue to be concerned.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 997 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 19, 2009, as part of Gallup Poll Daily tracking. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Polls conducted entirely in one day, such as this one, are subject to additional error or bias not found in polls conducted over several days.

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