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Americans Think Ebola Is A Top Health Care Problem

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Ebola is a huge health care problem for Liberia and the other countries in West Africa. But that is not the case here. What is the most urgent health care problem facing this country? That's a question that Gallup asks Americans each year. Frank Newport is the editor in chief at Gallup, and he told me about this year's responses.

FRANK NEWPORT: The first answers are access to health care and the cost of health care at 19 and 18 percent, but coming in right below that at 17 percent - Ebola.

SIEGEL: Ebola. And after that there's a drop-off?

NEWPORT: That's right. Perennially, we will get access and cost, and then we get cancer and obesity, which are down at 10 percent, or in that range. But this time, in November, Ebola inserted itself well above cancer and obesity.

SIEGEL: When you saw that answer, your reaction?

NEWPORT: Well, it certainly reminded me of how news coverage affects what people say in these open-ended questions because the respondent is searching his or her mind to say, well, what is a health problem? And when they scan their environment cognitively, the thing that came to mind, other than access and cost, was Ebola - because that had been in the news. So that's what it told me, is there's simply been a lot of discussion of Ebola.

SIEGEL: Frank Newport of Gallup. Thank you very much.

NEWPORT: My pleasure.

SIEGEL: For the record, just two people have become infected with the Ebola virus in this country - two nurses who treated a patient from Liberia in Dallas. Both of the nurses are healthy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.