Americans overwhelmingly see the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as a major environmental disaster, and most want the federal government to pursue criminal charges against BP and its drilling partners, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Q. From what you’ve seen and heard, do you think that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a major environmental disaster, a serious environmental problem but not a disaster, or is it not too serious an environmental problem?
Q. Do you think the federal government should or should not pursue criminal charges against BP and other companies involved in the oil spill? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?
NET YES, SHOULD: 64%
Public complaints against BP are twofold: Most give poor ratings to its reaction to the massive spill, and most blame the company and its drilling partners for taking unnecessary risks that could have caused the spill.
But the government itself is also in the line of fire. More Americans have given negative ratings to federal reaction to the BP spill then poll respondents gave to the government’s initial handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Overall, 69 percent of those polled now say the government has done a “not so good” or “poor” job handling the spill. More polled, 81 percent, give low marks to BP for its response. (Some 59 percent give negative ratings to both the federal government and BP.)
Criticism of the government and BP crosses party lines and spans the country. The Democratic discontent with the government’s response today – 56 percent give it low marks – contrasts with majority GOP support for federal efforts a few weeks after Katrina stuck in 2005.
Another sentiment shared across the partisan divide is the rising feeling that the situation in the Gulf represents a major environmental disaster. About three-quarters of those polled now say so, up significantly from a Pew poll last month.
In the new Post-ABC poll, those who see the spill as a disaster overwhelmingly advocate criminal charges against BP and its partners, and altogether 64 percent of Americans say the government should pursue such legal action. Most Democrats (74 percent) and independents (67 percent) support criminal investigation; Republicans divide 50 percent in favor, 44 percent opposed.
The poll was conducted June 3 to 6 among a random national sample of 1,004 adults. The results from the full poll have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.
Q: How would you rate the overall response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – excellent, good, not so good or poor?
-- Positive --- -Negative- NET Excellent NET Poor The federal government 28 2 69 32 The oil company BP 16 1 81 54
Q: How much blame, if any, do you think [unnecessary risks taken by BP and its drilling partners?] deserves for the oil spill – a great deal, a good amount, just some or none at all?
-Great deal/Good amount- ---Some/None-- NET Grt deal Good amt NET Some None All adults 73 55 18 23 17 6 Democrats 80 58 21 18 12 6 Republicans 61 42 19 34 28 6 Independents 76 61 14 22 16 5