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Poll: Katrina Shakes Confidence

Americans see the damage from Hurricane Katrina affecting more than just the Gulf Coast — 56 percent believe it will have a negative impact on the national economy as well. Evaluations of the national economy are low, and the belief that it is getting worse has risen to a level unseen since just after Sept. 11, 2001. Katrina has shaken Americans' confidence in the government's ability to manage a crisis. Americans overall trust in government is also low.

President Bush's ratings on handling the crisis improved slightly this week, but remain low. His overall job approval rating is mostly unchanged, but Americans have doubts as to whether his administration has clear plans for dealing with the Katrina recovery and rising gas prices.

THE IMPACT OF KATRINA: DECREASED CONFIDENCE
In addition to the devastation it wrought, Katrina also left Americans with battered confidence in their government's ability to handle crises. Americans now say they've lost confidence in the government's ability to respond to catastrophes, either to terror attacks or natural disasters, after watching what they believe was a sluggish response in the Gulf.

HOW DID KATRINA CHANGE YOUR CONFIDENCE IN GOVERNMENT'S ABILITY TO RESPOND TO DISASTER OR TERROR…?
More confident now 8%
Less confident now 56%
No change 33%

Twenty-nine percent of Americans say they generally trust the government in Washington to do what is right most of the time, the lowest level in seven years; the last time it was lower was October 1998. In July 2004, this number stood at 40 percent.

TRUST THE GOVERNMENT TO DO WHAT'S RIGHT?
Always/Most of the time
Now
29%
7/2004
40%
10/1998
26

Only sometimes/Never
Now
69%
7/2004
59%
10/1998
73%

This measure of trust in government has, historically, been low since the early 1970's, and hasn't reached 50 percent in this poll in twenty years.

THE ECONOMY AND KATRINA
This poll finds negative views about the overall economy, amid rising gas prices and the expected economic effects of Hurricane Katrina. 49 percent now say the economy is in good shape, and 50 percent say it is fairly or very bad.

VIEWS OF THE ECONOMY
Good
Now
49%
6/2005
54%
1/2005
57%
9/2004
56%
10/2003
45%

Bad
Now
50%
6/2005
45%
1/2005
42%
9/2004
43%
10/2003
54%

The outlook for the economy is pessimistic. Just 13 percent think it is getting better, and 47 percent think it is getting worse. This is the largest percentage of Americans thinking that the economy is getting worse since immediately following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, when more than half thought it was getting worse.

ECONOMY IS GETTING:
Better
Now
13%
1/2005
25%
9/2001
8%

Worse
Now
47%
1/2005
29%
9/2001
55%

Same
Now
38%
1/2005
45%
9/2001
35%

Some of the negativity about the economy may be due to Americans' worries about Katrina's economic impact: 56 percent say the hurricane's aftermath will have an adverse affect on the U.S. economy.

KATRINA'S IMPACT WILL MAKE U.S. ECONOMY…
Better 10%
Worse 56%
No change 32%

RECOVERING FROM KATRINA
Overall, Americans would rank the New Orleans rebuilding efforts as a higher urgency than two items that have been high on the Bush Administration's priority list for some time -- tax cuts and changes to Social Security. In separate questions, 73 percent of Americans said they'd prioritize rebuilding New Orleans over cutting taxes, and 63 percent would put reconstructing the Crescent City ahead of changing Social Security.

REBUILDING NEW ORLEANS IS A HIGHER PRIORITY THAN…
Cutting taxes
Yes
73%
No
20%

Changing Social Security
Yes
63%
No
26%

Most Americans would be willing to pay more in taxes to help recovery efforts, generally, and to help pay for housing and job re-training for the displaced victims, as well.

WILLING TO PAY MORE IN TAXES TO HELP…?
Katrina recovery
Yes
56%
No
37%

Job training and housing for victims
Yes
62%
No
32%

Most of those who are willing to pay more in taxes for either purpose would be amenable to a specific increase in the amount of $200 dollars a year.

But whether or not they're voluntarily willing to pay more, a large majority of Americans -- 73 percent -- think their taxes will increase as a result of Hurricane Katrina.

And while writing a bigger tax check to help recovery is okay with most, Americans draw the line at the gas pump: just one in five would be willing to pay more for gas in order to help recovery efforts.

WILLING TO PAY MORE FOR GAS TO HELP RECOVERY?
Yes 19%
No 76%

AFRICAN-AMERICANS, BUSH AND THE KATRINA RESPONSE
As the images broadcast from New Orleans in the wake of Katrina made clear, so many of those left stranded there for days were African-American.

Overall, Americans are unlikely to believe race played any role in the slow response to the tragedy, with 59 percent saying it was not a factor. Whites in particular are unlikely to say it was a factor. But African-Americans across the country see things very differently: two-thirds say race played a major role in the timing of the response.

DID RACE OF THOSE STRANDED AFFECT OFFICIALS' RESPONSE TIME?
Yes, major factor
All
21%
Whites
12%
Blacks
66%

Yes, minor factor
All
16%
Whites
17%
Blacks
15%

No, not a factor
All
59%
Whites
68%
Blacks
17%

African-Americans are just as critical of FEMA's response time as all Americans. And they give harsher judgment on whether federal officials are doing all they can now. Unlike whites, and Americans overall, African-Americans think federal officials could still be doing more than they are now.

ARE FEDERAL OFFICIALS DOING ALL THEY CAN NOW?
Yes
All
53%
Whites
57%
Blacks
32%

No
All
40%
Whites
38%
Blacks
59%


Most African-Americans have historically not approved of President Bush's job performance generally, and they overwhelmingly voted for Kerry in the 2004 election. Their current approval of Bush's job performance is a scant 12 percent (82 percent disapprove).

Today they are unlikely to think that Bush cares about the needs and problems of black people, or of Katrina victims in particular. Just 18 percent say the President cares at least some about the needs and problems of black people; 76 percent say he cares not much or none. African-Americans do not see him having much more sympathy for Katrina victims, either; most say he cares not much or not at all about those ravaged by the storm.

AFRICAN-AMERICANS: HOW MUCH DOES BUSH CARE ABOUT NEEDS AND PROBLEMS OF…?
Black people
A lot
1%
Some
17%
Not much/none
76%

Katrina victims
A lot
5%
Some
25%
Not much/none
64%

So it is perhaps not surprising that African Americans do not have confidence that the Administration will help Katrina victims get new housing or find jobs.

AFRICAN-AMERICANS: CONFIDENCE BUSH ADMIN. WILL HELP HURRICANE VICTIMS FIND HOUSING & JOBS?
A lot 9%
Some 22%
Not much/none 69%

This issue may be particularly important to African Americans, since about a third of blacks in the U.S. say they have a close friend or relative who was affected by the hurricane. One in five whites do.

KATRINA AND RELIEF EFFORTS
Just days after FEMA's former director Michael Brown resigned, a large majority of Americans says FEMA and federal agencies' response to Katrina was too slow. Interviewing in this poll was conducted Friday 9/9 through Tuesday 9/13; Brown resigned on Monday.

FEMA & FEDERAL AGENCIES' RESPONSE TO KATRINA WAS…
Too quick 1%
Too slow 70%
About right 23%

Although more Republicans than Democrats said the federal response was about right, a majority of Republicans still says it was too slow.

Just over half of Americans say that now, officials are doing all they can.

ARE FEDERAL OFFICIALS DOING ALL THEY CAN NOW?
Yes 53%
No, could be doing more 40%

Asked to volunteer, in their own words, who or what was singularly most responsible for the delayed response to Katrina, respondents cite government at all levels, New Orleans city government, and the residents themselves.

MOST TO BLAME FOR SITUATION IN NEW ORLEANS
Government generally/ all levels 12%
New Orleans city government 12%
The residents themselves 12%
FEMA/ Michael Brown 11%
Federal government 10%
President Bush 8%
New Orleans mayor/ Ray Nagin 8%
Louisiana state government 7%
LA Gov./ Kathleen Blanco 5%

Opinions split over whether having many National Guard troops in Iraq impeded the Katrina response back in the U.S.-- just over half of Americans do call this a factor in the delayed response, though fewer see it as a major factor. This is the same as last week.

And Katrina's impact is reverberating among families and friendships across America: 23 percent of Americans know someone directly affected by the disaster.

Americans continue to think that the response has tarnished America's image overseas, too: 58 percent say the images of the disaster have worsened views of America.

KATRINA'S IMPACT ON THE PRESIDENT
46 percent are confident the President will make the right decisions about dealing with the problems people affected by Hurricane Katrina are facing; 51 percent are uneasy. Fewer Americans -- 35 percent -- express confidence in Bush's ability to make the right decisions about the war in Iraq; 63 percent say they are uneasy about his approach.

CONFIDENT BUSH WILL MAKE THE RIGHT DECISIONS ON …
Hurricane Katrina
Confident
46%
Uneasy
51%

War in Iraq
Confident
35%
Uneasy
63%

More than two weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, half disapprove of George W. Bush's response to it. 44 percent approve of his response to Katrina, while 50% disapprove. However, this is an improvement since last week, when just 38 percent approved of the President's response to Hurricane Katrina.

BUSH'S HANDLING OF RESPONSE TO KATRINA

Approve
Now
44%
Last week
38%
8/30-31
54%

Disapprove
Now
50%
Last week
58%
8/30-31
12%

Don't know
Now
6%
Last week
4%
8/30-31
34%

Views on the President's handling of the hurricane are highly partisan, with 74 percent of Republicans approving, and 73 percent of Democrats disapproving.

The President continues to be seen as acting too slowly in responding to the disaster that followed Katrina. Nearly two-thirds say his response was too slow. On Tuesday, the last day of interviewing for this poll, Bush said he took responsibility for the federal government's response.

BUSH'S RESPONSE TO KATRINA WAS…
Too quick
Now
1%
Last week
1%

Too slow
Now
64%
Last week
65%

About the right speed
Now
32%
Last week
32%

Moreover, Americans do not think the Bush Administration has a clear plan for finding housing and jobs for people left homeless by Hurricane Katrina. Just 21 percent think the Administration has a plan, while 68 percent say they do not.

DOES BUSH ADMIN. HAVE CLEAR PLAN TO FIND HOMES & JOBS FOR VICTIMS?
Yes 21%
No 68%

Although they don't see a plan in place yet, most Americans do have confidence in the Bush Administration's ability to ultimately find new jobs and housing for the displaced Katrina victims -- though fewer have a lot of confidence.

CONFIDENCE IN BUSH ADMIN. FINDING HOUSING & JOBS FOR VICTIMS?
A lot 18%
Some 39%
Not much/none 40%

GAS PRICES AND OTHER ISSUES
More than eight in ten Americans say they have been affected a lot or some by the recent rise in gas prices, and a growing number say those prices are impacting their other spending: 62 percent now report they have changed their spending habits on other household items to compensate, up from 47 percent who said so two weeks ago.

There is not much anticipated relief from high gas prices in the next few months. 43 percent expect prices for gas to continue to rise, and another 29 percent think they will stay where they are now. However, this outlook is more optimistic than it was two weeks ago, when 78 percent expected prices to rise even higher.

IN NEXT FEW MONTHS, EXPECT PRICE OF GAS TO:

Go up
Now
43%
Two weeks ago
78%

Stay the same
Now
29%
Two weeks ago
6%

Go down
Now
25%
Two weeks ago
12%

It's not just gas prices that are affecting Americans' wallets -- two thirds are worried about being able to pay their heating bills this winter. Worries are worse for those living in colder climates.


CONCERNED ABOUT PAYING HEATING BILLS THIS WINTER?
A lot
All
36%
Northeast
41%
Midwest
39%
South
37%
West
26%

Some
All
28%
Northeast
27%
Midwest
33%
South
29%
West
22%

Not much/not at all
All
34%
Northeast
25%
Midwest
26%
South
33%
West
50%

A sizable majority of Americans think the Bush Administration has no clear plan yet for keeping gas prices low. 81 percent think the Administration has not yet formed a clear plan, 12 percent think they do have one.

DOES BUSH ADMINISTRATION HAVE CLEAR PLAN FOR DEALING WITH GAS PRICES?
Yes 12%
No 81%

This is an area in which the President receives some doubt from members of his own party; only one in five Republicans thinks the Administration has a clear plan for dealing with gas prices.

But 64 percent of Americans think gas prices are something the president can do a lot about, while 29 percent think that is beyond a president's control.

The economy (14 percent) and the war in Iraq (13 percent) top the list of the most important problems facing the country. Hurricane Katrina, at 10 percent, remains in the top tier of problems -- but this is lower than the number who cited it last week. 9 percent also name gas prices as the most important problem facing the country.

U.S. MOST IMPORTANT PROBLEM
Economy and jobs
Now 14%
Last week 13%
8/29-31 13%

War in Iraq
Now 13%
Last week 18%
8/29-31 24%

Hurricane
Now 10%
Last week 18%
8/29-31 5%

Gas/oil crisis
Now 9%
Last week 7%
8/29-31 14%

Terrorism
Now 6 %
Last week 5%
8/29-31 7%

PRESIDENT BUSH OVERALL JOB RATINGS
Despite the negative views on his handling of the hurricane, President Bush's overall job rating has held mostly steady since Hurricane Katrina hit. Today, 41 percent of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing as President -- not much different from last week.

The President's rating on fighting terrorism -- traditionally his strongest area -- has taken a hit in recent weeks. It stands at 50 percent now; last week 51 percent approved and it was at 55 percent in July.

BUSH JOB APPROVALS
Overall
Now 41%
Last week 42%
8/29-31 41%
July 45%

Terrorism
Now 50%
Last week 51%
8/29-31 54%
July 55%

Foreign policy
Now 38%
Last week --
8/29-31 --
July 42%

Iraq
Now 36%
Last week 35%
8/29-31 38%
July 41%

Economy
Now 35%
Last week --
8/29-31 37%
July 42%

Most Americans don't think the President shares their priorities for the country -- this has been the case since the spring of this year. 36 percent now say he does, while 61 percent say he does not.

DOES BUSH SHARE YOUR PRIORITIES FOR THE COUNTRY?Yes
Now 36%
6/2004 35%
5/2005 34%

No
Now 61%
6/2005 61%
5/2005 61%

Bush does get higher marks for compassion in the wake of the hurricane: a large majority -- 68 percent -- say he cares at least somewhat about the needs and problems of those left homeless as a result of it. Over half of Americans say he cares about the needs and problems of people like them, and a similar number say he cares about the needs and problems of blacks, specifically. When asked whether Bush cares about poor people, however, the public is more mixed: 49 percent say he does, while 50 percent say he does not.

HOW MUCH DOES BUSH CARE ABOUT NEEDS AND PROBLEMS OF…
Hurricane Katrina victims
A lot/some 68%
Not much/none 29%

People like you
A lot/some 55%
Not much/none 44%

Black people
A lot/some 54%
Not much/none 41%

Poor people
A lot/some 49%
Not much/none 50%

President Bush's leadership ratings have suffered some in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Today, 53 percent of Americans say Bush has strong qualities of leadership -- up slightly from last week but still historically low for this President.

DOES BUSH HAVE STRONG QUALITIES OF LEADERSHIP?
Yes
Now 53%
Last week 48%
9/2004* 64%
9/2001 83%

No
Now 45%
Last week 49%
9/2004* 34%
9/2001 14%

*among registered voters

CONGRESS
The overall approval rating for Congress continues to be low. 34 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, while 54 percent disapprove. This has changed little since March 2005.

CONGRESS' JOB APPROVAL
Approve
Now 34%
7/2005 33%
5/2005 29%
3/2005 34%

Disapprove
Now 54%
7/2005 50%
5/2005 55%
3/2005 49%

Historically, ratings of Congress in this poll have rarely risen above 50 percent.

The public is somewhat divided on Congress' response to Hurricane Katrina. 46 percent approve of the way Congress has responded, but 40 percent disapprove.

As has been the case since the spring, most Americans say that Congress does not share their priorities for the country. However, this is an improvement from June, when just 19 percent said Congress shared their priorities.

DOES CONGRESS SHARE YOUR PRIORITIES FOR THE COUNTRY?
Yes
Now 29%
6/2005 19%

No
Now 63%
6/2005 71%

Americans are more likely to prefer divided government than a President and legislature of the same party. These views have not varied much in the past few years.

DIRECTION OF THE COUNTRY

Today, 63 percent of Americans say things in this country are off on the wrong track. Only 31 percent now think the country is headed in the right direction.

Majorities of the public have consistently said the U.S. is off on the wrong track since the fall of 2003. The last time more than half of Americans said the country was headed in the right direction was in the very early days of the war with Iraq.

COUNTRY'S DIRECTION
Right direction
Now 31%
7/2005 37%
5/2004 30%
3/2003 52%

Wrong track
Now 63%
7/2005 57%
5/2004 65%
3/2003 41%



This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1167 adults, interviewed by telephone September 9-13, 2005. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. An oversample of African Americans was also conducted for this poll, for a total of 211 interviews among this group. The margin of error for African Americans is plus or minus seven points.
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