May 18: Ships make their way through surface oil near a barge funnelling off oil from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead in this aerial view over the Gulf of Mexico. Fears that ocean currents were spreading oil from the Gulf of Mexico spill flared on Tuesday after tar balls turned up in Florida, raising pressure on energy giant BP to capture more of the leaking crude (Reuters).
American voters think the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will cause more damage than Hurricane Katrina, according to a Fox News poll.
As the oil spill enters its fourth week, the poll also finds that support for increasing offshore drilling continues to erode, though a majority still favors it.
When asked which disaster will cause more damage, 50 percent of voters say the gulf oil spill, while 36 percent say Hurricane Katrina.
Republicans are evenly split over which disaster will be worse: 43 percent say the oil spill and 43 percent Katrina. Democrats (56 percent) and independents (50 percent) are more likely to say oil in the gulf.
There's little difference in views regionally, as about half of those living in all areas agree the oil spill will be worse.
Overall, 54 percent of voters favor increasing offshore drilling for oil and gas in U.S. coastal areas. That's down from 60 percent two weeks ago and a high of 72 percent in 2009. In early April, before the Deep Water Horizon rig exploded on April 20, fully 70 percent of voters favored increasing offshore drilling.
A sizable 69 percent majority of voters think the oil spill will hurt the nation's economy, while 26 percent think it won't make much of a difference.
Approval of the Obama administration's handling of the spill has dropped 6 percentage points in the last two weeks. The new poll finds 44 percent approve, down from 50 percent (May 4-5). The number disapproving increased to 36 percent, up from 29 percent. One in five voters remain unable to rate how the administration’s doing on the oil spill (20 percent).
Over half of Democrats approve (55 percent) of the administration's handling of the spill, while a plurality of independents disapprove (40 percent). Republicans are roughly divided: 40 percent approve and 42 percent disapprove.
By way of comparison, 52 percent of voters approve and 18 percent disapprove of how the administration handled the attempted bombing of Times Square, with nearly a third undecided (30 percent).
In general, 45 percent of voters approve and 46 percent disapprove of the overall job President Obama is doing. Earlier this month 48 percent approved and 43 percent disapproved. And a year ago, 60 percent approved and 30 percent disapproved.
The national telephone poll was conducted for Fox News by Opinion Dynamics Corp. among 900 registered voters from May 18 to May 19. For the total sample, the poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.