An interesting survey of the residents of New Orleans by the Kaiser Family Foundation released today found that 49% of those surveyed think that the BP oil spill is a more damaging threat to the city than Hurricane Katrina was (40%). No matter how much BP has tried to spin their response, 84% held a negative of view of how the company responded to the man made disaster.
The survey released today is the third in a series that the Kaiser Family Foundation has conducted of New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina, and it demonstrates how much progress the city has made it in its recovery, but also how devastating the BP oil spill is both economically and psychologically to the region. When asked what the single biggest problem facing New Orleans today is, three times as many residents selected crime (41%) as did the oil spill (12%).
Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman, “Residents report a lot of progress in the recovery effort, but just as the city appeared to be turning a corner it got hit by a different kind of hurricane — the oil spill.” The oil spill is seen by many as potentially more damaging than Katrina, “Nearly half of the city’s residents (49%) believe the fallout from the oil spill represents a more damaging threat to New Orleans than Katrina did, while 40 percent thought Katrina caused more damage. Large majorities say the spill will affect the New Orleans economy (64%) and the local environment (70%) a “great deal.””
Even though 60% of those surveyed don’t feel like their city has recovered yet, optimism that the recovery is heading in the right direction has grown by 14 points from 56% to 70% since 2008, but 70% feel like the rest of America has forgotten them. The survey found signs that healthcare and race relations are improving, but African Americans are still more than twice as likely as whites (41%-16%) to say that their lives have not yet recovered from Katrina.
New Orleans had been a city of two different economic worlds before Katrina and this continues to be the case today. Sixty four percent of African American households are low income compared to 24% of the white households. Within this context it is no surprise that more blacks than whites feel that this is a bad time to be raising children in the city, (51%-35%), and that New Orleans is a worse place to live than before the storm, (42%-28%).
The idea that more residents see the potential for more long term damage in the oil spill than in Katrina says a great deal about the battered collective psyche of the city, but their optimism in their recovery is an inspiration. It is fascinating to see what has happened in New Orleans after the cameras and media glare went away. Despite those on the Right who love to characterize the city as welfare bums who are living off the tax payers’ dime, New Orleans has had to pull itself up. The BP oil spill was another disaster with more television cameras and attention, but those cameras have gone, and the brave residents of New Orleans are once again a symbol of hope and renewal in the face of seemingly unending crisis.
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