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NEWSWEEK POLL: Fifty-Seven Percent of Americans Have Lost Confidence in Government to Deal With Another Natural Disaster

52% Do Not Trust President to Make Right Decisions in a Crisis

Bush's Job Approval At Record Low: 38 Percent Sixty-Six Percent Dissatisfied With Direction of Country

Sixty-Five Percent of Minorities Believe Race Was the Reason For Slow Response: 47 Percent Say 'Major Reason;' 64 Percent of Whites Say it Was Not a Reason at All

NEW YORK, Sept. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- President George W. Bush's approval ratings have fallen across the board in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and a seemingly flawed government response to the disaster, according to the latest Newsweek Poll. Bush's job-approval rating dropped to 38 percent, the lowest ever in the Newsweek Poll. Sixty-six percent of those polled say they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time; just 28 percent are satisfied, another record low in the poll.

A 52-percent majority of Americans say they do not trust President Bush to make the right decisions during a domestic crisis, 45 percent do. The same number-52 percent-do not trust him to make the right decisions during an international crisis, again, 45 percent do. In addition, 57 percent of Americans say the slow response in New Orleans has caused them to lose confidence in the government to deal with another major natural disaster, 41 percent say it has not; 47 percent say it has made them lose confidence in government to prevent another 9/11-type attack; half (50%) say it has not, the poll shows.

The president's ratings on issues having little if anything to do with domestic disasters also declined. Bush's approval on handling terrorism and homeland security is 46 percent, a five-point drop from the August 2-4, 2005 Newsweek Poll. For the first time in the Newsweek Poll, more Americans disapprove of Bush's handling of terrorism and homeland security (48%). And almost half (49%) of all those polled say taking military action against Iraq two years ago was not the right thing to do; 46 percent say it was. This is the first time ever in the Newsweek Poll that more Americans have said going to war was not the right thing to do than said it was.

A plurality of Americans also rates the federal government's response to the problems caused by Hurricane Katrina as poor (40%). Thirty-two percent say the Feds' response was "only fair;" and 21 percent believe the response has been "good," the poll shows. State and local governments did not fare better: 35 percent say they did a poor job and 34 percent say they did a fair job.

However, views are starkly different when examined by political party. Fifty-three percent of Democrats polled say the federal government did a poor job vs. just 19 percent of Republicans. Thirty-seven percent of Republicans believe the federal government did a good job and 11 percent believe it did an excellent job. The Democrats are more forgiving of local and state governments, though not as forgiving as the Republicans are of the Feds. Twenty-four percent of Democrats believe the state and local governments did a good job and four percent say an excellent job. Thirty percent of Democrats believe the local and state governments did a poor job, vs. 43 percent of Republicans; 35 percent of Dems and 29 percent of Republicans say they did a fair job.

While 66 percent of all those polled say a "major reason" for the government's slow response to the disaster was because of poor communication between federal, state and local government officials, 57 percent say a major reason was that the amount of destruction was unexpected and overwhelming. Fifty-five percent believe that incompetence of federal officials whose job is to prepare and deal with natural disasters is to blame and 57 percent believe state and local officials incompetence is to blame.

Whites' and non-whites' opinions also differ sharply. Twenty-two percent of all those polled say a "major reason" the response was slow was that it was not a priority because the people affected were mostly African-American. However, 47 percent of non-whites believe race was a major reason, while only 13 percent of whites believe it. And 29 percent of all those polled and 53 percent of non-whites say a major reason was that the people affected were mostly poor. (Only 20 percent of whites feel that way.)

In general, 35 percent say that the heads of federal agencies such as FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security are most to blame for not getting help quickly enough to the people in New Orleans; just 17 percent say that President Bush himself is to blame and 48 percent do not feel that someone in the administration should be held accountable and fired.

On the topic of rising gasoline prices, 36 percent of those polled say major oil companies are to blame for the rise and 22 percent say the federal government, the poll shows. Seventy-one percent say they have cut back on driving in some way in response to the increase in gas prices and 57 percent say they have given serious thought to buying or leasing a car with that gets better gas mileage. Just 31 percent have actually started car-pooling, ride sharing or using mass transit more often. And 65 percent of Americans say they have taken special steps to conserve energy at home because of rising costs of other fuels like oil and natural gas

On the topic of President Bush's appointments to the Supreme Court, 44 percent say that John Roberts should be confirmed to succeed William Rehnquist as the new Chief Justice. Sixty-six percent say Bush should strongly consider naming another woman to serve and 60 percent say he should strongly consider naming another black or Hispanic, the poll shows.

For this Newsweek Poll, Princeton Survey Research Associates International interviewed 1,009 adults aged 18 and older on Sept. 8-9, 2005. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points. This poll is part of the September 19 issue of Newsweek, on newsstands Monday, September 12. To interview Senior Editor Marcus Mabry on the poll, call Jan Angilella at 212-445-5638 or Natalia Labenskyj at 212-445-4078.

Source: Newsweek

CONTACT: Jan Angilella of Newsweek, +1-212-445-5638

Web site: http://www.newsweek.msnbc.com/

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