BP, not Obama, taking brunt of public's oil spill ire: poll

Public opinion polls find more than 70 percent of Americans disapprove of BP's handling of the Gulf oil spill, and support for offshore drilling has taken a dive since the disaster.

Robert Galbraith/Reuters
Demonstrators carry signs as they protest the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico outside BP offices in San Francisco on May 12.

The Gulf oil spill is indeed a Hurricane Katrina-sized public relations disaster for someone. But that someone may be BP, not President Obama.

Americans are not happy with the way Obama and the federal government have reacted to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster, according to polls. A just-out USA Today/Gallup survey, for instance, finds 53 percent of respondents rate Obama’s response to the oil spill as “poor” or “very poor.”

But BP is held in lower esteem. The same survey saw 73 percent of respondents give the actions of the oil firm responsible for the drilling a “poor” or “very poor” rating. Other polls have shown similar results. According to a May 25 CBS survey, 70 percent of respondents disapproved of BP’s handing of the oil spill.

If there is a silver lining in public opinion for the oil giant, it is that events in the Gulf may not affect consumer decision-making at the gas pump. Seventy percent of those who responded to a May 24 CNN poll said the oil spill “has not affected” their gasoline purchasing decisions.

However, the spill certainly has undercut public support for offshore drilling, at least for the moment. Forty-six percent of respondents to the CBS poll agreed that the risks are now too great for the US to increase offshore oil exploration. Two years ago, only 28 percent of Americans felt that way, according to CBS.

If nothing else, Americans appear to view the BP Deepwater Horizon spill and its aftermath as a defining event. Almost 40 percent feel it will turn out to be the worst environmental disaster in 100 years, according to Gallup. And they are following the story with intensity. Eighty-seven percent of Americans say they are watching Deepwater Horizon disaster’s events “very closely,” according to the recent Gallup poll.

The oil spill “ranks among the top 10 most closely-followed news stories Gallup has measured since 1991,” writes Gallup analyst Lymari Morales.


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