Ebola Debuts on Americans' List of Top U.S. Problems

Ebola Debuts on Americans' List of Top U.S. Problems

by Justin McCarthy

Story Highlights

  • Americans still say the economy is the top problem in the U.S.
  • Immigration as the biggest problem reaches a four-month low

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As the quarantine period ends for people exposed to the first person in the U.S. to be diagnosed with Ebola, the virus for the first time ranks among the top 10 issues Americans consider to be the most important ones facing the country. However, Ebola still ranks behind five other issues, including the economy (17%), dissatisfaction with government (16%) and unemployment (10%), and ties several others.

Recent Trend for Most Important U.S. Problem

These results come from an Oct. 12-15 Gallup poll, conducted while dozens of people in the U.S. were still being quarantined after coming in contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, who died earlier this month from the virus. Two of the nurses who cared for Duncan have now been diagnosed with the virus. Most others who had contact with Duncan were quarantined for three weeks, which ended Monday.

Separate Gallup polling about Ebola specifically finds more than one in five Americans saying they worry about getting the Ebola virus.

Immigration as Most Important Problem Dips to 7%

After peaking in July, the percentage of Americans who named immigration as the top problem facing the U.S. has gradually dipped, falling to a four-month low of 7% in October.

Percentage Naming Immigration as the United States' Most Important Problem

Despite the small drop, immigration remains one of the top problems Americans say is facing the country, and has been a recurring issue for the 2014 midterm elections.

Bottom Line

While economic issues and dissatisfaction with government remain the top U.S. problems that Americans mention, Ebola is a top concern to a not-insignificant 5% of the public. This ties mentions of ISIS and education, and exceeds such other high-profile issues as race relations and terrorism.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new regulations for handling Ebola-stricken patients may or may not alleviate Americans' fears. But if new infections continue to arise in the U.S., it is likely the virus will stay on the list as a top problem.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct. 12-15, 2014, with a random sample of 1,017 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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