Poll: Katrina Third Most Followed Event

A new Gallup poll shows that Americans view the response to Hurricane Katrina much more favorably now than in the immediate aftermath and that Katrina was followed with more intensity than any other news event in the past decade-plus other than the 9-11 attacks and the Iraq War.

Public: Response to Katrina Better Now Than Just After Hurricane Hit (Gallup)

Most Americans were not impressed with the initial response to Hurricane Katrina, but according to the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup survey, majorities of Americans now say that the people and officials involved in the rescue effort are doing a good job. The weekend poll shows Americans were inclined to fire FEMA Director Michael Brown (who resigned from FEMA on Monday). Most Americans believe that government agencies in New Orleans should have been better prepared, and they support the proposal for an independent investigation into the problems with the government’s response. But they reject the notion that race or poverty were reasons why the government was slow to respond.

The poll, conducted Sep. 8-11, finds that 58% of Americans say they have been following the news about the hurricane “very closely” and another 38% “somewhat closely.” Only the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and the war with Iraq found more Americans paying “very” close attention to those events — out of a list of over 150 events tracked by Gallup since the early 1990s.


2005 Sep 8-11
(sorted by “initial response”)

(total good)

(total good)



George W. Bush



The residents of New Orleans



State and local officials in Louisiana



FEMA/federal government agencies responsible for handling emergencies




President Bush

Despite initial criticisms of the federal government’s slow response to Katrina, Bush’s overall job approval rating remains essentially where it was at the end of August. Currently, 46% approve of his overall performance, compared with 45% in an Aug. 28-30 poll, both up slightly from a 40% reading earlier in mid-August. Fifty-one percent disapprove of the way Bush has been handling his job as president.

Americans are slightly less positive about Bush’s handling of the response to Hurricane Katrina, with 43% approving and 54% disapproving.

News Media

The public approves of the way the news media have covered the disaster — 77% of Americans say the media have acted “responsibly” in its coverage; only 20% say “irresponsibly.”

Nevertheless, 49% of Americans say the media are spending too much time trying to figure out who is responsible for the problems in the areas affected by the hurricane, compared with 48% who say that about Democratic leaders in Congress, and 31% about congressional Republican leaders.

As predicted previously, the public has done a good job of putting the disaster response–and the culpability of various leaders–into proper perspective. While media coverage can skew people’s expectations, that tends to be less true over time for the things that people watch unfolding live and thus have a large amount of information on.


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. ICallMasICM says:

    ‘49% of Americans say the media are spending too much time trying to figure out who is responsible’

    ????????? How much time is the media spending trying to figure out who was responsible and how much is just rank partisanship?