Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Who's Afraid of a Pandemic?

Way back in 2018, before The Age of Social Distancing, the threat of a pandemic barely registered in the public's mind. Pandemic ranked a lowly 32 on the list of events most frightening to Americans, according to the Chapman University Survey of American Fears. Only 39 percent of the public was afraid or very afraid of a major epidemic. Higher on the list of fears were such events as widespread civil unrest (43 percent), economic/financial collapse (49 percent), high medical bills (53 percent), and not having enough money for the future (57 percent).

If asked about our fears today, pandemic is likely to have moved to the top of the list. That's what a recent Gallup survey shows. When Gallup asked respondents how concerned they were about the coronavirus on February 3-16, only 36 percent said they were somewhat/very concerned. When Gallup asked again a month later, from March 2 through March 13, a much larger 60 percent were somewhat/very concerned. The March survey ended five days ago. At that time, there were around 2,500 coronavirus cases in the U.S. Today there are 6,500. San Francisco Bay area residents have been ordered to shelter in place and New York City is considering doing the same. When Gallup asks about coronavirus again in April, it's not much of a stretch to assume well more than 60 percent will be concerned.

Fear of the coronavirus pandemic is sure to be fueling other fears as well. It's likely many more Americans today than in 2018 are afraid of economic collapse, not having enough money, high medical bills, and civil unrest.

Source: Gallup, U.S. Coronavirus Concerns Surge, Government Trust Slides; and Chapman University, America's Top Fears 2018

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