Gov't Not Ready for Quake, Americans Say

In the "Where America Stands" series, CBS News and our print partner, USA Today, are looking at a broad spectrum of issues facing this country in the new decade.

For nearly two weeks, Americans have witnessed the devastation Haiti has suffered after being struck by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake Jan. 12. In the earthquake's wake, only a third of Americans think the federal government is adequately prepared to deal with a major earthquake hitting the United States, and most think such a quake will strike during the next 20 years.

A new CBS News poll released Saturday finds that 59 percent of Americans surveyed do not think the federal government is adequately prepared to deal with a major earthquake. Just 34 percent say the government is prepared.

The poll found that geographic region didn't affect respondents' views on the government's preparedness. Westerners had the most confidence in the government with 38 percent of them thinking it could handle a major quake. Midwesterners were the least confident of the four geographic groups with 31 percent having confidence in federal preparedness.

Men, however, expressed more confidence than women in federal preparedness with 40 percent of males surveyed giving the government a thumb's up over 29 percent of women. Of those who thought the government lacks in preparedness, 62 percent of women gave a thumb's down over 55 percent of men.

Eight in 10 Americans expect a major earthquake here in the next 20 years, including 44 percent who say such an earthquake is very likely.

Not surprisingly, those living in the West - where most of U.S. earthquakes have occurred - are the most likely to think there will be a major earthquake with 56 percent thinking it is very likely.

Read the Complete Poll

This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,090 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone January 14-17, 2010. Phone numbers were dialed from random digit dial samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.

This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.