Most Americans believe nation isn't ready for another disaster, poll shows
Monday, August 28, 2006
President Bush receives blame for mishandling of hurricane relief.
WASHINGTON -- Their confidence shaken by Katrina, most Americans don't believe the nation is ready for another major disaster, a new AP-Ipsos poll finds.
Poor people are more likely to fear becoming victims of the next disaster.
The survey, conducted one year after the devastating hurricane and with much of New Orleans still in shambles, found diminishing faith in the government's ability to deal with emergencies. It also gave President Bush poor marks for his handling of the storm's aftermath.
The region could get an eerily timed test of preparedness with forecasters concerned that a storm system named Ernesto could be at hurricane strength as it crosses over Cuba and heads across the Florida Keys this week.
Fifty-seven percent in the poll said they felt at least somewhat strongly the country was ill-prepared -- up from 44 percent in the days after the storm slammed ashore Aug. 29, 2005. Just one in three Americans polled believe Bush did a good job with Katrina, down from 46 percent a year ago.
"Nobody actually realized soon enough what the scope of this thing was," said Frank Sheppard, a 63-year-old retiree in Valrico, Fla., who considers himself strongly Republican. "The day after, people were actually celebrating."
"They didn't realize that the levees were deteriorating and breaking at that time," he said.
One year after Katrina, large areas of New Orleans remain virtually uninhabitable with piles of debris and wrecked cars.
Only $117 million of at least $25 billion in federal aid has reached the city, while federal investigators determined that roughly $2 billion in taxpayer money was wasted in no-bid contracts and disaster aid to people who did not need the help.
Norma Guelker, 55, of Bay St. Louis, Miss., still lives in a FEMA trailer after Katrina flooded her home with seven feet of water. She says there's no way the government is ready.
Blaming Bush, she said: "There's no reason for him to be concerned about the people who live here. They're not the people who vote for him."
Bush, who visits the recovering storm zone today and Tuesday, has sought to deflect the torrent of criticism, saying that rebuilding takes time.
Democrats are hoping to capitalize for the November congressional elections, such as among black and poor people, many of whom were unable to escape Katrina and the flooding it caused.
Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee planned to release a fresh report today that summarizes instances where small businesses in the Gulf Coast region were hurt as limited- or no-bid contracts were awarded to politically connected large firms in the weeks after the storm.
The AP-Ipsos poll surveyed 1,001 adults Aug. 7-9 and 1,000 adults Aug. 15-17 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The poll found race and class differences sometimes did color people's perceptions.
--Those making $25,000 a year or less worry were more likely to be worried about becoming a victim of a natural disaster than those who make $75,000 or more.
--People with a high school education or less were among those with the strongest views that the country cannot handle another disaster.
--Fewer than one in five minorities approved of Bush's handling of Katrina, compared with almost two in five whites.
Gina Montana, 45, of New Orleans, said she worries about another hurricane like Katrina "all day, every day" after the storm forced her family to flee their home. Montana is making her own disaster plans but insists she won't evacuate the city after sleeping in cars and on shelter floors the last time.
"I'm not going out like that," she said recently at the Superdome, which served as a trash-filled, sweltering temporary home for 30,000 people displaced by Katrina.
Others say some of the criticism of Bush has been unfair, noting there were missteps by Louisiana officials such as Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin as well. Still, they acknowledge their sense of security may never be the same.
"We're definitely not mentally prepared," said Dawn Janosik, a 52-year-old resident of North Lauderdale, Fla.
AP Manager of News Surveys Trevor Tompson and AP writers Michael Kunzelman in Biloxi, Miss., Becky Bohrer in New Orleans and Kasie Hunt in Washington contributed to this report.