September 8, 2005

Bush suffers in polls post-Katrina

By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush's image
suffered in public opinion polls taken after Hurricane Katrina
hit the U.S. Gulf Coast, with some finding growing doubts about
his leadership and the country's direction.

After a week of criticism for a slow response to the
devastation caused by Katrina, polls released on Thursday
registered drops in Bush's approval ratings and in confidence
in his leadership.

A Pew Research Center poll found 67 percent of Americans
believed Bush could have done more to speed up relief efforts,
and just 28 percent believed he did all he could. His approval
rating slipped to 40 percent, down four points since July to
the lowest point Pew has recorded.

The Pew poll also found a shift in public priorities after
Katrina caused a jump in gasoline prices last week, with a
majority saying for the first time since the September 11,
2001, attacks that it was more important for Bush to focus on
domestic policy than the war on terrorism.

"Americans are depressed, angry and very worried about the
economic consequences of the disaster," said Andrew Kohut,
director of the Pew poll.


The new polls indicated a week of criticism and political
finger-pointing over who is to blame for the disastrous
response to Katrina could have taken a toll on the White House.

A CBS poll taken September 6-7 found 38 percent approved of
Bush's handling of the storm's aftermath, while 58 percent
disapproved. That was a dramatic shift from immediately after
the storm last week, when 54 percent approved and 12 percent

The CBS poll also found confidence in Bush during a crisis
had fallen and only 48 percent now view him as a strong leader
-- the lowest number ever for Bush in the poll. A year ago 64
percent of voters saw Bush as a strong leader.

Bush's approval rating fell to 41 percent in a new Zogby
poll, with only 36 percent giving him a passing grade on his
handling of the response to the storm.

The Zogby poll also found broad pessimism among a majority
of Americans after the storm, with 53 percent saying the
country is headed in the wrong direction and 42 percent saying
it is on the right track.

A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll taken on September 5-6 found 42
percent believed Bush did a "bad" or "terrible" job handling
the storm and subsequent flooding, while 35 percent thought he
performed "great" or "good."

A Washington Post/ABC News poll taken September 2 offered
more mixed results, with 46 percent approving of Bush's
performance and 47 percent disapproving.

There was plenty of blame to go around for the slow
response to Katrina, with local and state governments also
taking a hit.

The Gallup poll found 13 percent blamed Bush for the
problems in New Orleans, while 18 percent blamed federal
agencies, 25 percent blamed state and local officials and 38
percent said no one was to blame.

In the Pew poll, 58 percent thought the federal government
had done only a fair or poor job after the storm, but 51
percent also thought state and local governments in Louisiana
and Mississippi had done just a fair or poor job.