Baffling Poll Finds Broad Approval for New York’s Hurricane Response


A new poll released yesterday by Quinnipiac University suggests that New Yorkers think that first responders, state agencies, Mayor Bloomberg, and the Red Cross all did a bang-up job in responding to Hurricane Sandy.

Given everything we already know about the response — public housing residents living weeks without heat, water, and electricity without so much as a door-knock from official responders, a breakdown of the health care system so severe that many residents went the better part of a month without critical medicine; and Bloomberg’s reported “Fuck you” response to the Rockaway’s first request for National Guard assistance — the poll results are surprising, to say the least.

But there it is: 46 percent of respondents rated first responders’ overall response as “excellent.” Another 40 percent gave it a “good.”

Governor Cuomo received ratings of “good” or “excellent” on his hurricane response from 85 percent of those polled, and Mayor Bloomberg got “good” or “excellent” from 75 percent.

Even the much-excoriated Red Cross got “good” or “excellent” ratings from 66 percent of respondents.

The poll results mark a sharp departure from other, more informal assessments of the performance of the institutional hurricane response, like the near riot in Broad Channel at a FEMA meeting and the, well, let’s just say direct feedback Bloomberg got when visiting the Rockaways.

So what accounts for the poll results? Just spitballing here, but it might have something to do with the fact that it was conducted by telephone, and many of the people in a position to speak with authority on the disaster response live in areas where cell and land-line service were obliterated.

Or perhaps the mayor’s relentless media blitz during and after the hurricane persuaded otherwise ignorant viewers that everything was well in hand. Or maybe the people living in the storm-damaged areas have just been struggling through a long, terrible dream, and in waking life our public officials and disaster-response infrastructure really have been performing admirably.

Still, the poll contained other interesting results. In every borough but Manhattan, most of those polled agreed that government relief agencies favored Manhattan in allocating post-hurricane relief resources.

The pollsters also got cute, with a meme-tastic approve/disapprove question about Bloomberg’s expressive sign-language interpreter, Lydia Callis. (The novelty of seeing Bloomberg’s sarcasm and disdain physicalized by a Hispanic woman appears to be wearing off: 43 percent had no opinion.)

Turning to root causes, 78 percent of those polled believe that we are experiencing large storms such as Sandy and Irene more frequently as a result of climate change. 62 percent believe that climate change is mostly caused by burning fossil fuels.

You can read the full poll results, complete with borough-by-borough and Republican / Democrat breakdowns, here.

For a different take on the hurricane’s aftermath, you can read this week’s cover story or check out the Voice’s complete Sandy coverage.