Sharp divide in how key voters view US government's Ebola response

Republican voters in electoral battleground states have far less confidence in US efforts to fight Ebola than do Democrats, a new poll shows.

Davie Hinshaw/The Charlotte Observer/AP
Sen. Kay Hagan speaks at a press conference Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C. After first opposing a travel ban for those coming to the US from West Africa, Senator Hagan announced her support for such a ban on Friday.

Anxiety is the dominant emotion among voters in battleground states and districts heading into Election Day, according to a poll released Monday by Politico

From Ebola and the Islamic State to health care and the economy, voters are feeling shaky about the nation’s ability to cope with a variety of challenges. Overall, this sense of skepticism has not given either party a strong advantage in the midterms. Forty-four percent of battleground voters plan to vote Democratic, versus 41 percent for Republicans.

But on the federal government’s response to the Ebola virus, Republican voters in battleground races are much more skeptical than their Democratic counterparts, the poll found. Among the voters in that sample who plan to vote Republican on Nov. 4, only 43 percent said they have “a lot” or “some” confidence that the federal government is doing “everything possible to contain the spread of Ebola,” the poll found. Among Democratic voters, the number was 81 percent.

The online poll of 840 likely voters was taken Oct. 3 to 11, three days after Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan died from Ebola in Dallas. On Oct. 11, the last day of polling, one of Mr. Duncan’s nurses, Nina Pham, was diagnosed with Ebola. Subsequently, another nurse, Amber Joy Vinson, was also diagnosed. Those three remain the only confirmed cases in the United States to date.

If no new cases emerge in the US before Election Day, Ebola could fade as a campaign issue. So far, signs are good. The more than 40 people who had had contact with Mr. Duncan in the US have been cleared from the watch list. The other watch lists – people who had had contact with Ms. Pham and Ms. Vinson – are set to expire in a matter of days.

But for now, candidates in tough races are calibrating their messages to fit public opinion. Last Friday, Sen. Kay Hagan (D) of North Carolina called for a travel ban into the US from West Africa, two days after saying it was unnecessary. Her challenger, state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) had called for a temporary travel ban more than two weeks ago.  

Other Democrats in tight races have also joined the call for travel restrictions, including: Senate candidate Michelle Nunn of Georgia, Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Rep. Bruce Braley of Iowa, who is running for Senate. The Obama administration has stood firm in opposition to such a ban, saying that travelers from Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone would easily get around it, making the disease more difficult to track. 

But public confidence in the administration’s handling of the Ebola situation has been sorely tried by a series of missteps. In one, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta cleared Ms. Vinson to fly on a commercial airliner to Ohio, despite early symptoms of Ebola. 

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