Gulf Coast Governors Fare Better than Obama in Oil Spill Response

August 5, 2010

The long-term effects of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill upon the careers of various politicians in the United States are still to be seen, yet current polls rate the popularity of the response by Governors of Gulf coast states as much higher than that of President Obama.

“People were [initially] blaming BP much more than they were blaming the government and Obama,” said Pew Research Center President Andrew Kohut.  However, he feels that with the United States involved in two wars and suffering from a poor economy, the Gulf Oil Spill, “added to a sense of things not going well in the country.”

Polls in April and May reflected that Obama’s response to the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, and subsequent oil spill from the blown-out well, was initially popular; yet, as the oil kept gushing into the Gulf, polls show a majority of U.S. citizens disapproved.

According to a poll in June by USA Today/Gallup, as well as in a CNN/Opinion Research survey in July, 53% expressed disapproval with Obama’s reaction to the disaster.  Last week’s USA Today/Gallup poll came in with 51% of Americans rating Obama’s handling of the environmental concerns following the spill as negative.

On the other hand, governors in states that line the Gulf of Mexico seem to have done much better in the spotlight of public opinion.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, after responding vehemently against the response of the federal government, received strong approval ratings in the polls.  Additionally, Governor Charlie Crist of Florida has seen much positive momentum in his bid for the U.S. Senate after voicing his opposition to drilling offshore.

Other politicians in non-Gulf states have also responded negatively to the current administration’s response.  Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma saw Obama’s reaction to the disaster to be equally negative as that of President George W. Bush‘s following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  At the time, the blame was cast upon the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“I don’t think it’s going to hurt Obama the way Katrina hurt Bush,” said Kenneth Green of the American Enterprise Institute.  “We don’t have an ‘Oil Spill Response Administration.’ If we did, there would probably have been a lot more blame.”

Although environmentalists are using the oil spill to reinforce their position, Washington Senators appear to be getting readying for summer recess without acting upon environmental concerns following the Gulf spill.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he couldn’t even muster support for a scaled-back bill to raise liability caps on companies found responsible for environmental disasters.

Additionally, Democratic leaders who support a broader energy bill focused on reducing fossil fuel consumption by taxing electric utility emissions expressed disappointment that there would not be a Senate vote on the bill prior to the elections in November.

Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming feels that Democrats were partly to blame for trying to use public opinion surrounding the oil spill to “overreach” on a broad energy bill.