Despite “Pandemic,” Swine Flu Worry Dwindles

by Lydia Saad

Few in any region are worried; gender gap gone

PRINCETON, NJ -- A new Gallup Poll -- conducted in the first few days after the World Health Organization declared the H1N1 flu a pandemic -- finds only 8% of Americans saying they worried "yesterday" about getting the so-called swine flu. This is down from 13% in mid-May and from the high of 25% in the early days of the outbreak, in late April.

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Flu symptoms
Students leave Williston Central School in Williston, Vt., on Wednesday, June 10, 2009, where summer vacation began two days early due to the large number of students with flu-like symptoms. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

As of Friday, June 12, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported nearly 18,000 confirmed or probable cases of H1N1 flu in the United States, and 45 deaths. The fact that cases have now been reported in all 50 states and the District of Columbia is reflected in the fairly uniform level of public concern across the four major regions of the country.

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Earlier this year, Gallup found women to be consistently more likely than men to say they were worried about getting swine flu, with the figure particularly high among women aged 18 to 49. This was most evident in late April and early May. However, these demographic patterns are absent in the current poll. Today, only 7% of men and 8% of women say they worried yesterday about getting swine flu. And the figure is below 10% among all four gender-by-age groups.

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Bottom Line

In some scenarios, the word "pandemic" might be expected to cause widespread panic among the American public; however, in the case of the H1N1 flu, it appears to have had no effect. Americans are less concerned about personally getting the illness than at any previous point in the outbreak. Now that they have had two full months to assess the severity of the swine flu in the United States since the first U.S. case was reported on April 15, they may be better able to put its associated risks into perspective with other illnesses -- such as the "normal" seasonal flu.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 998 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted June 13-14, 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.

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