The Ebola-induced panic disease in America is in full bloom these days, if you have been watching the mainstream media (read TV).
Among the favorite topics of discussion is whether airline flights from the three main Ebola-struck countries in Africa — Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone — should be banned from coming to the U.S., never mind that there are actually no direct flights from these West African nations to the nation’s airports.
About 150 passengers a day do arrive in U.S. east coast airports from those countries after making a connecting flight, usually in Europe, according to official U.S. estimates. These airports are New York’s JFK and Newark, Washington-Dulles, Chicago-O’Hare, and Atlanta, where screening for fever, one of the symptoms of Ebola, began last week.
So, when NBC News reported on a poll conducted almost two weeks ago — before the two latest cases of Ebola in U.S. came to light — about the American public’s attitudes towards Ebola, it chose to disregard a key fact in the results of its own survey and instead went with, you guessed it, sensationalism: “Majority of Americans Want Flights Banned From Ebola Countries: Survey.”
The results breakdown it had actually said something different: the majority, 58% according to its poll, while technically true, comes with a margin of error (plus or minus 4.6%, according to the survey results), so a more sane and factual headline would focus on the split almost down the middle in American attitudes on banning such non-existent direct flights.
So, over the last few days, we decided to do our own survey with a similar question and check the results for ourselves. Keep in mind these latest results are as of today.
The question we asked, using Google Consumer Surveys, to about 1100 adult Internet-using Americans: “Would you support a U.S. travel ban to and from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea as a means to halt the spread of Ebola to the U.S.?”
Important: This survey — not served to Skift users — was administered to almost 1500 of the U.S. internet population this past weekend. The methodology is explained here.
The topline result is closer than what the previous NBC poll suggested: 50.1 percent of Americans are in favor of it, while 49.9 percent are either not in favor, or not sure about it. This would qualify as an exact split in American attitudes about banning flights from these countries to America.
Other results in our survey when broken down by age, gender, U.S. region, income, and parental status all have more nuances than previous media headlines would suggest: American men are slightly less in favor of banning flights than women; older Americans more in favor of banning flights than younger Americans; the U.S. Northeast, where most of these indirect flight passengers would land, is more in favor of banning these flights to U.S.; urban Americans less in favor of a flight ban; richer Americans more in favor of a flight ban; and lastly parents in America are less in favor of banning these flights.
The breakdowns, below: