No matter how calm and collected President Obama appears to be, I bet the results of this poll really pissed him off. Even more so if he had a look at the fine print. A new ABC News/Washington Post released yesterday revealed that the country thinks the BP Oil spill is worse than Katrina. Sort of. Less surprising perhaps is the fact that 64% of those polled think the government should pursue criminal charges against BP; a conclusion the administration seemingly preempted when they launched their criminal investigation early. More from ABC, read closely:
Eight in 10 criticize the way BP’s handled it – and more people give the federal government’s response a negative rating than did the response to Hurricane Katrina.
Beaches across four Gulf shore states brace for oil onslaught.
A month and a half after the spill began, 69 percent in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll rate the federal response negatively. That compares with a 62 negative rating for the response to Katrina two weeks after the August 2005 hurricane. BP’s response to the spill draws even broader criticism – 81 percent rate it negatively. And 64 percent say the government should pursue criminal charges against BP and other companies involved in the spill.
Emphasis mine. Considering all the Katrina comparisons that have flooded the airwaves in the last few weeks it is perhaps not surprising that the easy media takeaway from this is that the public thinks BP is worse than Katrina. But is it accurate? Not really.
ABC’s headline misleadingly suggests the premise of their poll was a present day comparison between the two catastrophes. It was not. Some digging reveals that ABC instead asked participants to rate the government’s reaction to the BP spill after which they independently compared those results to poll numbers taken back in 2005 two weeks after Hurricane Katrina. Back in 2005. Let’s pause for a moment and recollect what sort of media the public did not have at its disposal back in August 2005: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube (at least to the widespread extent we do today), or for that matter the same obsessive interest in politics that has overtaken the nation since 2008. To say it was a different world in 2005 is putting it mildly. To say all these technological developments make the news more immediate, and the public that much more aware goes without saying. Moreover to rank side by side poll results taken 5 1/2 years apart, in two wildly different media environments, without taking any of this into consideration and then present them as a reliable comparison strikes asmisinforming and somewhat irresponsible. Needless to say this hasn’t stopped Drudge from running it at the top of his page for the past 16 hours.
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