Americans See Spread of Disease as Top International Threat, with Terrorism, Nuclear Weapons, Cyberattacks
Nearly all U.S. adults (98%) say this is at least a minor threat, with roughly eight-in-ten (79%) naming outbreaks of disease as a major threat to the country. This is 27 percentage points higher than the level of concern about infectious disease in the midst of West Africa’s Ebola outbreak in 2014.
But infectious disease is not the only issue where Americans see a growing threat, the report says. Concerns about China and the condition of the global economy have also been on the rise. The survey, conducted at a time of surging COVID-19 cases in the United States, found that worries about both the threat of infectious diseases and the condition of the global economy rose after President Trump declared a national emergency on March 13.
Overwhelming majorities of Americans say cooperation with other countries is important when dealing with each of the international issues tested, and this is especially true of the spread of infectious diseases, the report says. On this issue, 86% say it is very important to cooperate with other countries, and 97% say it is at least somewhat important to cooperate.
And as the economic fallout from the COVID-19 crisis becomes clearer, Americans increasingly see the condition of the global economy as a threat. Since 2017, concerns about the state of the world economy have risen 18 percentage points, from 37% saying it was a major threat in 2017 to 55% who say so today.
According to the research, Americans overwhelmingly say that cooperation with other countries is important when dealing with major international threats. This is especially true on the preeminent international issue of early 2020, the spread of infectious diseases. Here, 86% say it is very important to cooperate with other countries when dealing with disease outbreaks, and fully 97% say it is at least somewhat important to cooperate.
An overwhelming majority of Americans think cooperation with other countries is important for dealing with all the major international issues polled, according to the research. But there is variation on whether people say cooperation is very important. For example, eight-in-ten Americans say cooperation on terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons is very important, compared with only 55% and 52%, respectively, who do so on the issues of migration and long-standing conflicts between countries.
However, says the research, Americans are more likely to say these major issues require cooperation than they are to say they see them as threats. When comparing whether these issues are seen as major threats and whether cooperation to deal with them is very important, Americans tend to be more likely to say they require cooperation. For example, 55% of Americans see cooperation with other countries as very important for dealing with migration, but only 42% of Americans see migration as a major threat.