CBS poll: 80% back quarantines for Ebola; Update: Hagel approves quarantines for returning troops

Yesterday, Barack Obama scolded governors who imposed quarantines on people who recently traveled from western Africa. He may want to reconsider his lecture. According to a new CBS poll, eight in ten Americans think quarantine during a potential incubation period sounds like a pretty smart idea — and more than a quarter want a travel ban imposed on non-Americans in Ebola-impacted nations:

A new CBS News poll finds that Americans overwhelmingly support quarantine for travelers arriving from West Africa. Eighty percent think U.S. citizens and legal residents returning from West Africa should be quarantined upon their arrival in the U.S. until it is certain they don’t have Ebola. Just 17 percent think they should be allowed to enter as long as they do not show symptoms of Ebola.

Polling began on the evening of Oct. 23, the night Dr. Craig Spencer became the first U.S. citizen to be diagnosed with Ebola inside the United States after contracting the disease in West Africa.

Americans are even more stringent when it comes to foreign visitors from West Africa. Just 14 percent think foreign visitors should be allowed to enter the U.S. as long as they show no symptoms of Ebola. Most–56 percent–think they should be quarantined upon arrival, while just over a quarter (27 percent) don’t think they should be allowed to enter the U.S. at all until the Ebola epidemic in West Africa is over.

Why do Americans back quarantines so strongly? In part, because they’ve seen how the government responded to two cases of Ebola in the US, and don’t want to test a failing system any further:

Americans continue to show concern that the federal government is not adequately prepared to deal with an outbreak of Ebola in the United States. Fifty-six percent do not think the federal government is adequately prepared, and 66 percent feel the same way about their own local hospital.

The polling took place from Thursday through Monday, which not only included Spencer’s diagnosis and travelogue through the Big Apple, but also the storm of criticism that followed from the imposition of quarantine policies by governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie. The White House scorned the moves, claiming that they weren’t based on science. That had about zero impact on Americans, though, which is about as unified on a policy as ever.

In fact, Obama seems to be less convincing among Democrats than among independents. Republicans give the most support for blocking entry to non-US residents from Ebola impacted countries at 33%, but Democrats aren’t far behind at 22% while 29% of independents support it. When combined with quarantine support, indies are at 82%, while Democrats are at 84% and Republicans at 89%. The same bipartisan consensus exists for quarantining US citizens and legal residents coming from these countries, with 78% of independents, 81% of Democrats, and 84% of Republicans all supporting such policies.

Interestingly, this isn’t a policy borne of fear as much as it is from experience. Overall concern about a large Ebola outbreak has actually dropped slightly from mid-October’s 69% to 61%, with all three affiliation demos at 60% or above. The number of “very concerned” has dropped from 40% to 32%, and all three demos are within a point of that number.  Both are significantly lower than the desire to impose travel bans or quarantines, which strongly suggest that people see the latter as normal preventive measures rather than a crisis response.

For that matter, Barack Obama agrees — when it comes to American troops. Major Garrett reports today on the head-scratching that resulted from Obama’s announcement yesterday that doctors and nurses who had direct contact with Ebola patients would not be quarantined, but that soldiers and Marines that had no direct contact with such patients would have to be quarantined for 21 days.  Obama has created “not consensus, but confusion” with his contradictory stands, although Garrett fails to give credit where it’s due. The incompetence demonstrated by Obama’s team has created a consensus that we need to stop potential carriers before things get worse.

Update: Chuck Hagel increases the cognitive dissonance:

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday approved a recommendation by military leaders that all U.S. troops returning from Ebola response missions in West Africa be kept in supervised isolation for 21 days.

The move goes beyond precautions recommended by the Obama administration for civilians, although President Barack Obama has made clear he feels the military’s situation is different from that of civilians, in part because troops are not in West Africa by choice.

Yes, because the difference between volunteering for actual contact with Ebola patients and being ordered into an area where the disease runs is totally sciency, or something. It’s an absurd distinction, but no more absurd than lecturing Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo over quarantines while his own Cabinet imposes one of its own.

Update: Courtesy of Jazz, Rasmussen finds that 70% of likely voters back quarantines for all health workers coming back from Ebola-impacted countries. This poll was taken over the last two days, and also finds that only 35% of LVs rate the Obama administration’s response on Ebola as either excellent (12%) or good (23%). That sentiment holds up in practically every demographic, too, including an astounding 81% among black voters, who usually end up strongly in support of the Obama administration. Here are a few others:

  • Males – 68%
  • Females – 72%
  • Republican – 83%
  • Democrat – 63%
  • Unaffiliated – 66%

The lowest level of support for quarantines among all of the demos is 50% for those who make more than $200,000 a year.