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WRAL News poll: North Carolinians favor Ebola travel ban

Posted October 21, 2014 5:13 p.m. EDT
Updated October 21, 2014 5:21 p.m. EDT

— More than three-quarters of North Carolinians surveyed in an exclusive WRAL News poll say the federal government should impose travel restrictions on those from countries with Ebola outbreaks.

The poll found that 80 percent of men and 77 percent of women favored a ban, with 79 percent of people overall saying they supported the ban. 

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has ordered that airline passengers arriving from West Africa be screened for the deadly disease at one of five airports, which is far short of the complete travel ban called for by some politicians. 

The Ebola travel ban has become an issue in the U.S. Senate race in North Carolina.

Republican candidate Thom Tillis called for a travel ban on Oct. 2, saying, "the White House should immediately ban travel from from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to contain the spread of Ebola."

Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan was initially more circumspect in her response, saying on Oct. 3, "Travel restrictions may be one tool we can use, but they should be part of a broader strategy, because simply sealing the borders to these countries won't make the crisis go away." On Oct. 17, she put out a written statement definitively calling for a travel ban.

"I have said for weeks that travel restrictions should be one part of a broad strategy to prevent Ebola from spreading in the U.S. and fighting it in Africa," Hagan said. "I am calling on the administration to temporarily ban the travel of non-U.S. citizens from the affected countries in West Africa. Although stopping the spread of this virus overseas will require a large, coordinated effort with the international community, a temporary travel ban is a prudent step the president can take to protect the American people, and I believe he should do so immediately."

Tillis immediately labeled that a "flip-flop," saying it shows Hagan's "unwillingness to stand up to President Obama when he is wrong. This should not be a partisan issue. Most Americans, in both parties, support a travel ban to keep us safe, and Sen. Hagan should listen to the people instead of the president."

Of those surveyed in the WRAL News poll who say they're voting for Hagan, 67 percent say they back a travel ban. Of those who back Tillis, 92 percent back such a ban. 

While it is a popular idea, scientists are skeptical that a travel ban would be effective in stopping the spread of the disease. 

"A cordon sanitaire of this region would be a public health failure as well as an ethical and political failure," J. Stephen Morrison, director of the Global Health Policy Center at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the New York Times last week. 

In addition to raising concerns that travel bans could frustrate the crisis in West Africa, experts have said it would have little effect in the United States.

"It gives us the false assurance that we can ignore the problems that are happening in Africa," Wendy Parmet, director of the Program on Health Policy and Law at Northeastern University School of Law, told National Geographic Magazine"At the end of the day, we can't, and our own safety depends on our getting it right there, not on building the walls."