WASHINGTON (AP) - A majority of Americans disapprove of how
President Barack Obama has handled the devastating Gulf oil spill
though far more blame BP for what people call a sluggish two-month
response, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll released
It comes as the president seeks to show more forceful leadership
in confronting the nation's worst environmental crisis and convince
a skeptical public he's up to the task.
The survey found that 52 percent don't approve of Obama's
handling of the spill, a significant increase from last month when
a big chunk of Americans withheld judgment. But Obama's overall job
performance rating didn't take a hit; it stayed virtually the same
at 50 percent. That's consistent with the public's attitudes
throughout his young presidency; people generally like him but
don't necessarily agree with his policies.
Disapproval of Obama's handling of the environmental crisis is
similar to the percentage of Americans frustrated with President
George W. Bush's response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane
Katrina on the gulf states. In November 2005, two months after the
hurricane hit, 53 percent disapproved of Bush's handling of Katrina
in an AP-Ipsos poll. Now, like then, a majority of Americans are
angry about the government's slow response, with 54 percent saying
they had strong feelings about the bureaucracy's reaction.
The public is directing most of its ire at the oil company that
leased the rig. A stunning 83 percent disapprove of BP's
performance in the aftermath of the April 20 explosion that killed
11 workers and triggered the spill of millions of gallons of crude.
That number of Americans disapproving also was a big jump from May.
Back then, people seemed to take a more wait-and-see approach.
But public attitudes have shifted dramatically as Americans
already reeling over a recession and angry at institutions of all
types - from corporations to Congress - watched oil continue to
gush while both BP and the government struggled to find a solution
and clean up the mess.
Far more people are focused on the spill now as oil coats
beaches, kills wildlife and cripples the Gulf economy; 87 percent
now say the issue is extraordinarily important to them personally,
second only to the economy. And far more rate the environment - 72
percent - as very important than did last month.
More than half reported strong feelings of anger over the speed
of the government's response, and about a third said they felt a
strong degree of shame about what's happening in the Gulf. Nearly a
third expressed strong feelings of doubt over whether the
government could really help them if they were a disaster victim
and more than half doubted that the government's response to the
oil spill, thus far, has had any impact.
All that underscores the public's widespread lack of faith in
government as well as the task ahead for Obama as he tries to show
he's in command of the response. The president was wrapping up a
two-day visit to the region and planned an Oval Office prime-time
speech on the catastrophe later Tuesday. Obama was meeting BP
executives at the White House on Wednesday.
His response is all but certain to be a political issue,
defining his presidency and, perhaps, affecting this fall's midterm
congressional elections if not his likely re-election race in two
Nearly three quarters in the poll said they thought the spill
will have some impact on their own families in the next year; 63
percent said the country would still be feeling the impact in five
years while 40 percent said it would be more like a decade.
The AP-GfK Poll was conducted June 9-14 by GfK Roper Public
Affairs & Corporate Communications. It involved interviews on
landline and cell phones with 1,044 adults nationwide, and has a
margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)