Pain, Fury Still Rage a Year After Katrina

There's a substantial racial component underlying the views of New Orleans residents, one that is not as stark in the rest of the affected counties. One reason is that blacks in New Orleans were more directly affected: More than two-thirds of New Orleans blacks say their area was severely damaged, compared with just over four in 10 whites there. A startling 96 percent of blacks say their homes were damaged, compared with 78 percent of whites. And 46 percent of blacks say a close friend or family member was killed as a result of the hurricane, compared with 29 percent of whites in the city. In the rest of the region, the differences between the races on these measures is narrower.

Katrina's Effect in New Orleans
  Whites Blacks
Area where live severely damaged   43%   68%
Primary residence damaged   78   96
Close friend/relative killed   29   46

By extension, blacks in New Orleans are 29 points more likely than whites there to say the hurricane has had a long-term negative impact on their health, 15 points more likely to say they haven't personally recovered and 11 points more likely to say it's hurt their emotional well-being. But they're no more likely to be angry or frustrated with the government's response.

Blacks in the city also are 14 points more likely than whites to say Katrina caused long-term damage to their personal finances. In addition to having lower incomes on average, blacks in the city who sustained property damage are more than twice as likely as whites to say their losses weren't at all insured.

Most blacks, furthermore, see a racial element in the government's response to the hurricane. In New Orleans, three in four blacks think race and poverty has affected the pace of the federal recovery program and six in 10 say recovery problems are an indication of racial inequality in this country.

Blacks in the Gulf Coast and nationally feel similarly; whites, in New Orleans, the Gulf Coast and nationally, tend to differ. In New Orleans, 29 percent of whites think recovery problems are an indication of racial inequality; it's 16 percent among whites in the Gulf Coast region and 30 percent of whites nationally.

Perceived Racism in Recovery Effort
  Whites Blacks
Race/poverty affecting recovery   39%   74%
Problems indicate racial inequality   29   61

However, while blacks are more likely to see racism in the recovery efforts, they're no more critical than whites are in their personal dealings with FEMA. Forty-nine percent of blacks in New Orleans who dealt with FEMA say the agency did an excellent or good job assisting them; 51 percent of whites say the same. Similarly, blacks are about as likely as whites to rate the Red Cross' assistance positively.

In New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, ratings of the federal recovery effort are similar among blacks and whites. However, blacks nationally rate the post-Katrina recovery effort more negatively than whites do. Eight in 10 rate the federal government's response negatively, compared with two-thirds of whites. And more than six in 10 blacks are not confident the government can respond effectively to another disaster, compared with fewer than half of whites. Most of the difference though stems from the fact that blacks are twice as likely as whites to be Democrats.

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