Public Rates Federal Response To Oil Spill Worse Than Response To Katrina

More bad news for the Obama Administration in a new ABC News poll about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill:

By more than a 2-to-1 margin, Americans support the pursuit of criminal charges in the nation’s worst oil spill, with increasing numbers calling it a major environmental disaster. Eight in 10 criticize the way BP’s handled it  and more people give the federal government’s response a negative rating than did the response to Hurricane Katrina.

A month and a half after the spill began, 69 percent in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll rate the federal response negatively. That compares with a 62 negative rating for the response to Katrina two weeks after the August 2005 hurricane.

(…)

There’s partisanship in views of the federal response, with Democrats less critical of the Democratic-led government. Nonetheless, even among Democrats, 56 percent rate the federal response negatively. That rises to 74 percent of independents and 81 percent of Republicans.

Partisanship ran in precisely the opposite direction in views of the Katrina response under the Bush administration. Just 41 percent of Republicans rated that response negatively, compared to 64 percent of independents and 79 percent of Democrats.

In addition to the 7-point difference in negative ratings of the federal response to the oil spill vs. Katrina, there’s a 10-point difference in positive ratings  28 percent for the government’s oil spill response, vs. 38 percent for its response to Katrina. That’s in part because 59 percent of Republicans rated the response to Katrina positively, while just 40 percent of Democrats say the same about the current oil spill response.

It’s fairly easy to understand why the public might be rating the response to the oil spill worse than Katrina.

For one thing, we are now in the 50th day since the Deepwater Horizon exploded and the crisis began and there’s still no realistic end in sight to either the undersea oil gusher or the environmental impact from the oil that’s already made it to the surface. More importantly, the oil spill has been the story for each of those past fifty days. For as bad as Katrina was, its immediate impact occurred over a much shorter period of time and by the time Day 50 since landfall came in mid-October 2005, the story was largely out of public consciousness. The longer this story goes on without a resolution, the worse the public mood is going to get.

The length of the crisis plays into the other factor at play here, which is the simple fact that the public’s expectations of what the Federal Government can do in response to the oil spill seem to be far higher than what the government can actually accomplish. We live in a world where people expect immediate results, but we’re dealing with a crisis that is going to take time to clean up. As long as the public has an unrealistic idea of what the government can do, and how quickly it can do it, they’re going to rate the government’s response poorly.

As I noted on Friday, the oil spill is now the defining moment of Obama’s first term. So far, fairly or unfairly, he’s getting a failing grade.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Environment, Oil Spill, Politicians, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. JKB says:

    Always a risk when you take reality out of the equations and solve for hope.  What you end up with is an approximation with severe boundary conditions.
     
    Of course, many of the same people upset at government’s impotence in the face of nature were just two months ago promoting geo-engineering because some cow had gas.  Sadly, this is the result of a concerted effort to take the science out of environmental science.  Not by design, just by letting to many people who can’t or don’t want to do the “hard sciences” in to it.  That is  Where it goes wrong
     
     




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  2. Dave Schuler says:

    There will undoubtedly be criminal prosecution and it’s pretty likely to succeed if only because the bar has been set so low on criminal prosecution.  As I understand the laws under which they’ll likely prosecute, intent or proof of intent is not required.
     
    I certainly think that BP should pay the full costs of cleanup and compensatory damages.  Unfortunately, the possibility of that may have been limited by the Congress.  I don’t know that prosecution under criminal law compensates for that.
     
    I’m skeptical of the increasing criminalization of infractions of federal statute and regulation.  But I’m not sure of the remedy, either.




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  3. john personna says:

    If public truly rates federal response to the oil spill as worse than Katrina, then the public is pretty stupid.
     
    Count the body bags.




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  4. Dave Schuler says:

    ?
     
    Are the deaths caused by Katrina more the responsibility of the federal government or the states and local governments?




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  5. john personna says:

    I think “yes” is the correct and non-political answer Dave.
     
    Anyone who tries to apportion body bags, some to the states, and some to the feds, is a hack.




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  6. John,
     
    This did not happen as a result of a decision made by President Bush (and I’m no Bush fan by any means):
     
    http://atoc.colorado.edu/wxlab/hurricanes/Hurr%20GW/Buses.jpg




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  7. john personna says:

    Seriously, there were 1,835 deaths in Katrina with the government (in the inclusive sense of local, state, and federal) working in preparation.  This spill has 11 deaths, before the fed was notified.
     
    This spill is seriously messed up, but there is a classic “baring the door after the horse is gone” situation here.  People are just stupidly emotional and want someone to “just fix it.”  When that proves hard, they … we’ll the public feels their only responsibility at that point is to “blame,” right?
     
    God help ’em if they decided to use less oil, or even just called for stricter environmental regulations.




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  8. john personna says:

    You miss my point.  I think the Katrina failure was something that local, state, and federal entities share.  Bush doesn’t get off free, because he was part of it.
     
    Hell, if you are supporting the finger-pointing that ruined response in the first place, you are part of the problem, and not the solution.




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  9. john personna says:

    (Isn’t there a saying like “responsibility divided is responsibility removed?”)




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  10. Dave Schuler says:

    john personna:  one more ad hominem and I will have you banned from the site.




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  11. john personna says:

    If you can’t take a tweak, that says more about your security in your argument.  Especially since I’ve been given a lot more ad hominems here than I’ve ever given.  I don’t remember you rising to my defense once, or did you?

     




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  12. john personna says:

    Look, was there anyone (local, state, federal) in Katrina response who _didn’t_ screw up?
     
    On the other hand, is there anyone in this spill that we know really _did_?
     
    A lot depends in this second case in just wishing there was a faster way to plug the leak … but we don’t really know that there was.  I mean, at one point people were saying “nuke it” in desperation.




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  13. Since when do ad hominem attacks mean a ban from OTB? If that has been standard practice, shouldn’t almost all commentators (including myself and a few of the contributing editors) be banned?




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  14. john personna says:

    I think technically it wasn’t an ad homeinem as well.  Basically it was an attack on the argument, “Anyone who tries to apportion body bags”

    It’s always good to remember the true form, “don’t believe Bob because he’s stupid, or crazy, or smelly”
     




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  15. c.red says:

    I can only put this down to very short memories and general frustration at the fact that there is no easy fix to the oil leak situation even though it feels like there should be. I also think there may be a general frustration in that there isn’t much anyone can actually do to help, there is no one to donate to, no relief funds. All we can do is watch it unfold and maybe at some point volunteer to clean some beaches which will just get dirty again.

    Beyond the official death count, there was the looting and vigilantism, people starving in the Superdome and the hospitals for two weeks, the evacuations that didn’t really have destinations (thank you to the people of Houston and the other places that just took people in, proud national moment), the almost botched insurance settlements, the FEMA trailers debacle…etc.

    I’m not really objective on Katrina for family reasons, but I don’t see how anyone can realistically compare the two disasters… or the responses.




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  16. c.red says:

    I can only put this down to very short memories and general frustration at the fact that there is no easy fix to the oil leak situation even though it feels like there should be.

    Beyond the official death count, there was the looting and vigilantism, people starving in the Superdome and the hospitals for two weeks, the evacuations that didn’t really have destinations (thank you to the people of Houston and the other places that just took people in, proud national moment), the almost botched insurance settlements, the FEMA trailers debacle…etc.

    I also think there may be a general frustration in that there isn’t much anyone can actually do to help, there is no one to donate to, no relief funds. All we can do is watch it unfold and maybe at some point volunteer to clean some beaches which will just get dirty again.

    I’m not really objective on Katrina for family reasons, but I don’t see how anyone can realistically compare the two disasters… or the responses.

    (On a side note, can I just mention that I miss the preview post feature.)




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  17. Wayne says:

    Part of the reason for thinking the Government could and should have done more, is that more facts are coming out that they could have. People can try to do the old liberal trick of repeating something over and over in hopes of making it sound like a fact but it is not working.
     
    Besides the many things that have been pointed out several times already, we now have experts from Saudi Arabia who have dealt with large spills pointing out even more things like the use of hay and pumps to clean the oil spills. I suspect there will be many more experience oil spill experts that will continue to surface and state what could have been done. The administration isn’t even returning their phone calls.
     
    I am sure many will continue to ignore the facts like the federal government delayed oil burn which was policie and many of their mishandling of this crisis but most of the public won’t.  The public are finding these things out and it makes the deniers incredible.




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  18. Wayne says:

    Just to make myself clear. I not asking for Obama to resign or be impeach like the left did with Bush. I not even asking for heads to role unless it warranted. I want mistakes to be acknowledged so we don’t make them again. Also to cut the red tape and B.S. and start doing what needs to be done.  There are resources lying around and being wasted while people are going around and covering their asses. 




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  19. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Apples and oranges.  Katrina was primarily a local and state responsiblity.  The federal government had to have State premission to respond and in the case of New Orleans and Katrina, the request for federal help was slow in comming from the Governor.  Someone here said count the body bags.  I say count the buses.  Had those 1000+ people been on those 1000+ buses on there way to safety, those with BDS would have found something else to blame on him.  The people of New Orleans has THREE DAYS notice a hurricane was going to hit their area.  Some stayed to weather the storm and paid a high price.  How is that Bush’s fault?  Obama, on the other had leased the federal area to BP, failed to make sure all the safety regs were followed, and did nothing after the explosion but play round ball and golf.  He was told early on the extent of the damage and that this was a possible disaster of unmatched perportions.  Still he does nothing.  Bobby Jindal has asked, repeatedly for federal help.  What he has gotten is minimal help.  There were many options when this started that would have reduced the impact on the evironment and effected areas.  What this President chose to do was basically what he has done every time something happens.  Nothing.  If it is not on his political agenda it does not get the attention it deserves.  Remember when Barack said Jobs was his number one priority?  Guess that meant census jobs.




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  20. john personna says:

    “Part of the reason for thinking the Government could and should have done more, is that more facts are coming out that they could have.”

     
    I notice this is said without saying what they should have done, nor links documenting it.  On the other hand, we have the ” I told you this was gonna happen” news which I can link to here:
     
    http://motherjones.com/blue-marble/2010/06/rigs-fire-i-told-you-was-gonna-happen
     
    Maybe Obama should have flown around the earth really fast, reversing time.
     
    “Apples and oranges.  Katrina was primarily a local and state responsiblity.”
     
    That is ignoring both the Army Corps of Engineers, pre-hurricane, and the cascading failures in response after the hurricane.
     
    It is NOT like the screw-ups stopped when the Feds were called … or is anyone here really going to claim the the Federal execution was flawless?




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  21. c.red says:

    Wayne,
    They are doing burn offs and, my understanding is, they have been for several weeks, those are limited to surface oil and by weather conditions.  The Washington Post had an article mentioning them yesterday. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2010/06/07/ST2010060704777.html?sid=ST2010060704777
    Wasn’t there a big article about the smoke from the burn offs hindering some of the assessment efforts in the first few eeks?

    If you have a source saying differently or that they were delayed please share, because that would be important to know.

    I don’t know about hay and pumps, but I would suspect dispersant chemicals and ocean skimmers serve the same purpose only better. As for the experts, it’s not unlikely they are snubbing some unintentionally or even intentionally. It isn’t like BP and the Fed doesn’t know what to do, it’s just a matter of the sheer size of the effort.  




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  22. john personna says:

    BTW Zelsdorf, that link documents the meetings that decided the game plan, and ultimately the leak, on the oil platform.
     
    Are you really suggesting that the federal government have a monitor on all oil platforms, to be in all those meetings?




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