Attention deficit: Americans less concerned about avian flu pandemic

Levels of concern about avian (or bird) flu have diminished in the U.S. over the last 12 months, according to a survey conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs.

Only about one quarter of respondents (27%) indicate more than a moderate level of concern about avian flu in the U.S. generally, down eight percentage points from last year. Asked more specifically whether they see avian flu as a threat to their personal health or the health of their families, only 15% of respondents report more than a moderate level of concern.

There’s anecdotal evidence that business interest in planning for a pandemic is waning, too. As Gartner Inc. analyst Ken McGee put it (here):

“Most clients would not be prepared if this descended upon the world tomorrow — they just simply would not be ready,” he said. “I think it’s just part of the human condition: You don’t put the stop sign up until after the traffic accident.”

McGee is as concerned as ever about the threat of a pandemic, but he’s worried that fears are waning in the U.S. And, he said, he’s afraid “that people will learn the hard way that they cannot respond to a pandemic situation once it has been declared, because everyone will be trying to do that and nothing will get done.”

More results from the Ipsos poll:

Recall of news coverage about avian flu is also on the decline. The proportion of Americans saying they have read, heard or seen at least some coverage about it is now 56%, down 18 percentage points from 74% a year ago.

A majority of Americans (62%) now feel that government leaders are giving enough attention to the issue. Nearly a third (32%), however, would like to see avian flu given a greater focus.

Ipsos Methodology
The survey was conducted online among 1,438 U.S. adults aged 18 and over interviewed between June 7 and 17, 2007 with Ipsos’ Online Omnibus. Results are demographically balanced to represent the population of adults aged 18 and over in the United States. The margin of error is 3.1 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.