Is Harvey Trump's chance to turn things around?

September 07, 2017, 6:30 PM GMT+0

Over half of Americans (55%) approve of Donald Trump's response to Hurricane Harvey

So far in Donald Trump’s presidency, he has received consistently bad public reviews. His approval ratings have been negative since his first weeks, and many of his proposed actions – the travel ban, the border wall, and the repeal of DACA – have garnered criticism. But in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, a majority approves of the way he has handled the response to Hurricane Harvey.

Last week’s poll was conducted before the President’s first visit to Texas, while the hurricane was still ravaging the state. This week’s poll was conducted after the President’s second visit and as the flood waters began to recede. The President’s rating on Harvey is similar to the one Americans today give former President Barack Obama when asked to judge retrospectively his handling of Superstorm Sandy, and much better than public memories of former President George W. Bush’s management of Hurricane Katrina.

The President gets especially good ratings when it comes to compassion for the victims of the storm, a trait he is not often seen as possessing. About two in three say he cares at least somewhat about the victims. This is more than the percentage who believes he cares about their own needs and problems, but it is smaller than the share who think he cares about wealthy people. And there has been is no improvement whether people believe the President cares about them personally since before the storm.

The belief that Mr. Trump cares about those affected by the hurricane may help change perceptions down the road. But assessments of the President’s handling of Harvey are also being helped by the feeling that the government has, so far, performed well in its preparation and response. The federal, state and local governments get positive marks when it comes to preparing for the storm, and Americans believe the government responded to the storm adequately, and as fast as it could.

The public response is not just a partisan one – more than a third of Democrats praise the government’s reaction. These are very different responses from those recorded in CBS News polls conducted in 2005 shortly after Hurricane Katrina. Three in four then thought the government could have done a better job in the days following the storm, and 80% thought it could have responded faster.

When it comes to the President’s overall approval rating, Americans haven’t turned around yet in their generally negative judgment. 52% disapprove this week, about as many as have disapproved in Economist/YouGov Polls for months. However, this week’s 41% presidential approval rating is higher than it has been since May.

It’s clear the public wants to help those who have been affected by the storm – and wants the government to help, too. 29% say they know someone affected and 40% say they have contributed something to aid the victims.

As for the government, Americans of all political beliefs think it has a role to play in helping flood victims, even those without insurance, as well as a role in preventing future damage. Majorities believe the federal government should offer cash assistance and spend money to rebuild homes of those without insurance. But they also agree that the government should prevent people from building in areas that flood regularly.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

See the full results from this week's the Economist/YouGov poll

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