Fewer than one-third of Americans say the Obama administration is doing a good job dealing with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the Society for Human Resource Management/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll, conducted with the Pew Research Center.
The poll found 31 percent saying the administration has been doing an excellent or good job dealing with the spill, while 57 percent said President Obama's team is doing an "only fair" or poor job.
Even among Democrats, the administration fell short of majority support, with 48 percent citing a good job and 42 percent claiming it was not so good. Only 27 percent of Independents and 13 percent of Republicans said the administration was doing a good or excellent job on the spill.
Perhaps the only encouraging news for the White House in the poll was that respondents were more negative about BP. Only 18 percent said the oil company is doing an excellent or good job with the spill. But about twice as many Republicans said the company is doing a good or excellent job - 25 percent - than said that about the Obama administration.
But while BP "is taking the heat for this now ... that could change if this keeps going on," said Carroll Doherty, associate director for editorial at the Pew Research Center.
There have already been partisan attempts to fault the president for his leadership in combating the oil spill, with conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh calling it "Obama's Katrina" only 10 days after the spill. Doherty said most Americans understand the devastation brought by the hurricane and the spill is "not even comparable." But he said the public is bothered by how long the leak has gone without being plugged.
"It's the ongoing nature of it that is difficult now. This has gone on a month, and there seems to be no end in sight," he said.
President Obama will travel Friday to the Gulf Coast to review firsthand the efforts to counter the spill, the Associated Press reported today. Obama will travel from Washington to Chicago on Thursday for a long weekend with his family, as planned. From there, he will go to Louisiana on Friday and return to Chicago that evening. [updated]
The poll of 1,002 adults, conducted Thursday through Sunday, has a 4-point error margin.
Top White House aides, though clearly frustrated by the situation, believe they have no alternative to keeping pressure on BP to stop the spill. They have tried to counter criticism from Republicans by releasing a timeline of their response and repeatedly stressing that the response began "on Day One."
The administration noticeably stepped up its public reaction this week, featuring a lengthy White House briefing Monday by Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the national incident commander on the spill.
Senior Coast Guard officials today said they are prepared to turn to other options if BP engineers fail to "top kill" the well gushing oil in the Gulf this week but continued to insist the federal government should not take over the operation.
Allen said he believes the government would have the authority to take over the operation, but said he does not believe it would be logical. He said BP already has the skills and resources, and that it would take the government too long to replace them.
This article appears in the May 29, 2010, edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.