Fentanyl and Other Opioids Seen as Top Public Health Threat: Poll

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Aug. 17, 2023 – Americans are more worried about drug use in the U.S. – specifically, fentanyl and other opioids, according to a new opinion poll.

Just 2% of people told the survey company Ipsos they believe the No. 1 public health threat in the U.S. is COVID-19. The top threat on the list was fentanyl and other opioids, which more than 1 in 4 people cited in three different polls since February.

In second place on the list of public health problems was obesity. Meanwhile, the threat of people’s access to guns faded to third place on the list, with 20% of people citing the concern, down from 26% who cited guns as a public health threat in May. Cancer trailed in fourth place, with 11% of people mentioning the disease.

The survey included a nationally representative sample of 1,162 U.S. adults who were contacted between Aug. 11 and Aug. 14.

Compared to opinions gathered in May, fewer people now believe that the pandemic is over. About half of people said in the past week that they thought COVID was in the rearview mirror, compared to 62% who considered it a thing of the past in May. 

The poll showed that 46% of people said the recent uptick of COVID cases concerned them, but nearly everyone had not taken a recent COVID test, most did not mask, and 7 in 10 people did not perceive much risk to their health if they did get the virus.

“The concern about rising COVID cases is mixed, but what's more clear is that there's really no behavioral change," Ipsos Vice President Mallory Newall told Axios, which sponsored the poll. "Moreover, the perceived level of risk of contracting COVID remains low – on par with getting a tick or mosquito bite."