ABC News can't seem to figure out what percent of whites in their latest poll believe that the response to Katrina would have been faster “if the victims were wealthy and white,” with World News Tonight anchor Elizabeth Vargas (20 percent), an on-screen graphic (21 percent) and ABCNews.com (24 percent) all offering a different percentage. And while Vargas highlighted Monday night how “dissatisfaction...with the government's response to the hurricane is growing and hurting President Bush's overall approval rating. It now stands at just 42 percent, the lowest it's ever been,” in a WashingtonPost.com article posted at 5:30pm EDT, Richard Morin pointed out that “Bush isn't the biggest loser in the post-Katrina blame game.” Indeed, though 45 percent said Bush deserved a “great deal” or “good amount” of blame for “problems” in the response, 57 percent said the same about state and local officials.
Like Vargas, ABC News polling analyst Gary Langer skipped those numbers as he focused his online posting on how “on Katrina, opinion has moved further away from Bush and his administration.”
Transcript from ABC and excerpts from ABCNews.com and WashingtonPost.com follow.
Neither the WashingtonPost.com posting nor accompanying PDF of poll results provided a racial breakdown for the question from which ABC News reported the 20/21/24 percentages.
On the September 12 World News Tonight, anchor Elizabeth Vargas announced:
“Our latest ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that dissatisfaction, however, with the government's response to the hurricane is growing and hurting President Bush's overall approval rating. It now stands at just 42 percent, the lowest it's ever been. And one more finding that gets at the division in the country after the hurricane: An overwhelming number of African-Americans, more than 70 percent, say that the government would have responded more quickly to the disaster in New Orleans if more of the victims had been wealthy and white, rather than poor and black. Only 20 percent of whites agree with that.”
On screen, viewers saw a graphic with a disheveled black man, hardly a positive image, with this wording of the question:
“Government would have responded faster if victims were wealthy and white:
On ABCNews.com, polling analyst Gary Langer reported:
....KATRINA -- On Katrina, opinion has moved further away from Bush and his administration. Fifty-four percent now disapprove of his work on the hurricane, up seven points from an ABC News/Washington Post poll Sept. 2, four days after the storm hit the Gulf Coast. What had been essentially an even division on Bush's response is now disapproval by a 10-point margin.
More, 62 percent, rate the overall federal response negatively, up 11 points from initial public attitudes. Sixty-three percent say that two weeks after the hurricane hit, the administration still lacks a clear plan on how to handle it; rather than recovering its footing, the administration has lost eight points on this measure since Sept. 2. And three-quarters of Americans favor a 9/11 commission-style investigation of the hurricane response, apart from anything Congress might be planning.
There may be repercussions as well for administration policy on taxes: Nearly six in 10 Americans say consideration of tax cuts should be set aside for the time being.
RACE -- The survey also finds a profound division between black and white Americans in their perceptions of the disaster response. Blacks overwhelmingly say hurricane preparedness and response were shortchanged because of the race and poverty of many of those affected, and call it a sign of broader racial inequality in this country. Whites are far less likely to see it that way.
Seven in 10 blacks, for instance, believe New Orleans would have received better flood protection and emergency preparedness resources if it had been a wealthier, whiter city, rather than a largely poor, African-American one. Fewer than three in 10 whites agree.
Similarly, 76 percent of blacks think the federal government would have responded more quickly to rescue people trapped by floodwaters if more of them had been wealthy and white rather than poorer and black. Fewer than a quarter of whites share that view....
END of Excerpt
An accompanying table listed this question: “Did race and poverty affect speed of response?”
Whites yes: 24%
Blacks yes: 76%
In a WashingtonPost.com article, “Bush Approval Rating at All-Time Low,” posted at 5:31pm EDT and which will likely appear in very similar form in Tuesday's Washington Post, Richard Morin reported:
“Bush isn't the biggest loser in the post-Katrina blame game. A majority -- 57 percent -- say state and local officials should be blamed for the problems, suggesting the White House has been at least partially successful in shifting fault away from Bush and the federal government. And half the public says the bigger problem is that people failed to take the storm warnings seriously, while nearly as many said the bigger problem was the failure of government to provide transportation to those in the path of the storm.
“But Americans were even more suspicious of Democrats' motives. Six in 10 said that Democrats critical of Bush for his handling of the hurricane were just trying to use the disaster for political advantage while a third said Democrats were genuinely interested in finding out what went wrong.”
An accompanying PDF provided the specific questions:
> “10. How much blame if any do you think Bush should get for problems in the federal response to the situation -- a great deal, a good amount, only some or none?”
“Great deal” or “good amount” totaled 45% (“some” or “none” totaled 54%)
> “13. How much blame if any do you think state and local officials should get for problems in the response to the situation -- a great deal, a good amount, only some or none?”
“Great deal” or “good amount” totaled 57% (“some” or “none” totaled 42%)
As of 10:30pm EDT, ABCNews.com's “Click here for PDF version with full questionnaire and results,” did not work.