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Pointless polls: BP vs. Katrina

June 7, 2010 |  3:44 pm
Bo-oil I'm just as disgusted as anyone at the photos of oil-soaked bird carcasses washing up on Gulf Coast shores. But the results of a recent poll on Americans' attitudes toward the Obama administration's response to the oil spill, when compared with a similar 2005 poll on President Bush's post-Katrina ball-dropping, are curious:

A month and a half after the spill began, 69% 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.

The 7-point spread doesn't represent much of a statistical bombshell. But the Katrina versus BP comparison -- as if both can be held up as indicative of the same kind of government incompetence -- is puzzling. As The Times' editorial board wrote last week, the Bush administration's Federal Emergency Management Agency was too slow to perform tasks it was explicitly set up to fulfill. Thousands of evacuees were stranded for days in a flooded New Orleans while FEMA Director Michael D. Brown displayed little interest in doing his job.

President Obama, by contrast, has drawn criticism mainly for his supposedly insufficient outrage. Though The Times' editorial board faulted the president for maintaining too much of a hands-off approach for too long, it did point out that unlike FEMA's more clearly defined role in hurricane relief, "There are no proven protocols in place for responding to an oil well blowout at a depth of 5,000 feet; the country is only now learning this humbling lesson."

Or if you insist on identifying a villain, you're free to join Sarah Palin in left field and blame  -- no kidding -- "radical environmentalists."

-- Paul Thornton

Photo credit: Reuters

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