There is less than two months to go before American voters make up their minds about exactly who should be in charge of whether the year’s most virulent virus vaccine will be a success, according to a new poll.
Fourteen percent of Americans want President Donald Trump to pick a director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rather than Larry Fink as the agency’s CEO, while a slightly smaller percentage would rather the public be left in the cold.
The Washington Post/ABC News poll is based on a survey of 1,005 U.S. adults, asking about the government’s “vaccination efforts for the most deadly influenza virus circulating in the United States,” and whether the federal government should prioritize funding for pandemic vaccines, as well as regarding public health science, budget and jobs.
Trump declared national emergency in July, citing federal funding cuts to the CDC that have led to decades of overproduction of the RSV (swine flu) and influenza A (H1N1) viruses.
Of the poll’s respondents, 84 percent said they want the CDC to succeed in tackling viruses like the flu as well as the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and bird flu viruses that have killed millions of people around the world.
There was a modest boost for Fink, the CEO of the BlackRock investment company, in the three-week Washington debate over his nomination to lead the CDC. Fifty-five percent of Americans thought he should get the nod, whereas just 32 percent back Fink.
Despite the unpredictability of flu — which sometimes rears its ugly head at the same time that ducks, chickens and the Texas tree frogs cause illness — the poll showed that 64 percent of Americans see him as someone who could prevent pandemics.
Just 14 percent see him as someone who is just waiting for the day the virus shows up on the U.S. mainland, and a smaller number, 10 percent, said he is neither someone with any experience in bioterrorism nor knowledge of the virus.
In terms of jobs, Fink’s more controversial choice got little love from at least part of the American public. About 60 percent of Americans thought he lacked industry experience and support.
Nearly half of those surveyed said they either wanted to see him stay, step down or be nominated, while 16 percent said he did not make a good choice.
Fink received just 13 percent of the public’s favorability rating, while Trump’s picked up 60 percent of the public’s vote.
Maggie Wheeler, associate professor of politics at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the results raised concern that their intended approval may not actually materialize.
“We have had a stock of academic and industry experts running against Mr. Fink,” she said. “We’ve got a bunch of academics in and out of academia who have been advocating for him at every point in time.”
Still, she added, “I’m not sure I totally agree with me” with everyone in favor of Fink.
The new poll, which was conducted after the CDC released a statement warning of the possibility of an “insidious viral pandemic” to be experienced in 2018, was the first the administration released in advance of possible. It didn’t reveal whether the agency planned to tap another person as a leader of the agency.
The Kaiser Family Foundation, a public health advocacy group, said in a statement it was not surprised that the president’s picks were most favored among Republicans.
“Given the current situation, the choice of Larry Fink is a bad one,” it said.