Poll: Bush Not Taking Brunt of Katrina Criticism

There's another division on the suggestion that the deployment of National Guard troops and equipment to Iraq made it more difficult for state officials to respond to the hurricane: Forty-six percent think this is so, and fewer, 31 percent, think it had a big impact. Forty-nine percent don't see much impact of the deployment.

There's even division on what to do with New Orleans: Forty-nine percent favor rebuilding the city with a stronger levee system; 43 percent, though, think low-lying areas of the city should be abandoned, with those homes and businesses rebuilt elsewhere. House Speaker Dennis Hastert seemed to make such a suggestion earlier this week, to broad criticism.

Emotion

Emotional responses to the rescue efforts fall short of broad outrage. Forty-five percent of Americans are angry about the federal government's response to the hurricane situation -- plenty of anger, but short of a majority. (Sixty-three percent of Democrats and 51 percent of independents express anger; among Republicans it's 27 percent.) Similarly, 44 percent call themselves "ashamed" at the federal response.

Few are proud of the response -- just 27 percent -- but the most prevalent emotion is hopefulness, expressed by 64 percent. (Fifty-five percent say they're "shocked," which could reflect a response to the magnitude of the disaster as much as the federal response.)

Feelings About the Hurricane Response
(Percent "yes" on each item)
  All Democrats Independents Republicans
Hopeful   64%   50%   61%   80%
Shocked   55   68   56   42
Angry   45   63   51   27
Ashamed   44   63   46   28
Proud   27   17   21   43

Personal Link

Many people have a personal link to the disaster: Twenty-eight percent -- more than one in four Americans -- say they have close personal friends or relatives in the Gulf Coast area who were directly affected by the hurricane and flooding. Of that group, as of Friday night, about four in 10 were still waiting for word on how those friends or relatives had fared.

People who know someone affected by the hurricane are no more likely to criticize the president's or federal government's performance, and in some specifics (delivering food and water and evacuating displaced people) they rate the federal response more positively than others. Nor are those who have a friend or relative affected more apt to be angry at the federal response.

The data suggest that people still awaiting word on the status of friends or relatives are more apt to be displeased with the federal government's response and people who had already heard are more apt to be pleased, but these subgroups in this sample are too small for reliable analysis.

Gas

As noted, the federal government's worst rating -- 79 percent negative -- is for dealing with the oil supply and the rising price of gasoline -- the issue that impacts most people most personally. The rating is similar to recent views of Bush's handling of gasoline prices; in an ABC/Post poll a week ago, 73 percent disapproved.

One reason for the poor rating is the broad view that the rise in prices is unjustified: In a rare example of bipartisanship, just 16 percent of Americans think higher gas prices can be explained by the drop in oil production caused by the hurricane; 72 percent, instead, think oil companies and gas dealers are taking unfair advantage of the situation. Three-quarters of Democrats and independents think so, and in this case, so do two-thirds of Republicans.

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