More than half the people in this country say the flooded areas of New Orleans (search) lying below sea level should be abandoned and rebuilt on higher ground.

An AP-Ipsos poll found that 54 percent of Americans want the vast sections of New Orleans that were flooded by Hurricane Katrina (search) moved to a safer location. About 80 percent of the city was flooded at the height of the flood. The city, home to about 484,000 people, sits six feet below sea level on average.

The fate of the flood-prone areas of the city is an open question. The aid pricetag already runs tens of billions of dollars. In the days after the hurricane, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (search) suggested the worst-flooded areas should be bulldozed and moved to higher ground.

People's skepticism about restoring New Orleans below sea level comes as the public mood has darkened after one of the nation's worst natural disasters.

Almost two-thirds, 65 percent, say the country is headed in the wrong direction — up from 59 percent last month. President Bush's job approval was at 39 percent, the lowest point since AP-Ipsos began measuring public approval of Bush in December 2003.

Two-thirds of those surveyed say the federal government was not adequately prepared to respond to the disaster. About the same number said the state and local governments deserve much of the blame for the slow response.

Blacks were especially upset with Bush; 78 percent of blacks blamed the president for the poor response, compared to 49 percent of whites.

A third of the country felt the government would have responded faster if the victims weren't mostly poor and black.

The sentiment most expressed by people about the tragedy was anger — two-thirds said they were deeply angry that relief for the victims was so slow.

Despite their gloomy mood, people are donating to hurricane victims at record levels. More than 80 percent said they had already given money.

The poll of 1,002 adults was taken Sept. 6-8 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.