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Public Pans Obama's Response to Oil Spill, But Gives Worse Marks to BP

5 years ago
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A majority of Americans give negative marks to President Obama and the federal government for the handling of the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill and they are even far more critical of the response of the oil giant BP which leased the oil rig that drilled the deepwater well.

Fifty-three percent of Americans rate Obama's performance as poor or very poor while 43 percent consider it good or very good, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted May 24-25. Sixty percent say the federal government has done a poor or very poor job while 35 percent rate it good or very good.

A CBS News poll conducted May 20-24 also found public displeasure with Obama's handling of the disaster, with 45 percent disapproving compared to 35 percent who approved, with 20 percent undecided.

BP takes a harder hit with 73 percent in the Gallup poll describing its response as poor or very poor, while 24 percent say it has been good or very good. In the CBS survey, 70 percent disapproved of BP's response compared to 18 percent who disapproved, with 12 percent undecided. Recent news reports have contained a number of disclosures about missed warning signs about problems with the well or procedures that increased the risk of a problem.

Gulf oil spillThe snapshot of public opinion on the issue comes as the political fencing over the response to the spill has intensified and frustrations have grown about the failure to get the well capped since the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig last month..

Some critics have said that the Obama administration has left too much of the on-the-ground response to BP rather than having the government take more control, and there has been much finger-pointing about how much the Bush versus the Obama administration is to blame for the alleged failure of the Minerals Management Service to aggressively oversee offshore drilling projects and for reports that its officials were too cozy with their industry counterparts.

Obama, who will travel to the Louisiana coast on Friday, plans to announce at a press conference Thursday that he will impose a six-month ban on drilling new deepwater wells and cancel plans for exploration of some offshore sites.

On the issue of who is in charge of efforts to contain the spill and prevent environmental damage, 68 percent in the USA Today/Gallup poll come down on the side that the operations should be in the hands of the oil company while 28 percent want the federal government to lead the response.

Thirty-seven percent believe the spill will turn out to be the worst environmental disaster in 100 years while another 35 percent label it a disaster, but not the worst in 100 years. Twenty-three percent label it a major problem rather than a disaster and 3 percent say it is a minor problem.

Forty-seven percent of Americans are following the story very closely, which puts it near the bottom of the list of other major events of the last 10 years. The stories that commanded the most attention in that period were, in order, the 9/11 attacks, the Iraq war. Hurricane Katrina, the death of Princess Diana and the sniper shootings in and around Washington, D.C.

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