On September 20th, Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico as a category 5 hurricane causing significant damage to much of the island’s basic infrastructure and severely limiting access to electricity, water, and basic necessities. To better understand the public’s awareness of the damage to Puerto Rico and their assessment of the federal government’s response.
the Kaiser Family Foundation polled the public on these issues and found a large majority are aware of the severity of the hurricane’s impact on Puerto Rico and most (62 percent) say the people there are not yet getting the help they need.
In terms of the federal government’s response, about half feel the federal government is not doing enough to restore electricity and access to food and water (52 percent) and that the response has been too slow (52 percent).
The largest share place the blame for problems restoring basic services on a slow response by the federal government (44 percent), followed by 32 percent who place blame on disorganization at the local level and 10 percent who blame lack of coverage by the news media.
Given that Hurricane Maria was the third hurricane to hit U.S. ground in one month, the survey also assessed the public’s views of how the response to Maria in Puerto Rico compared to the government’s response to earlier hurricanes and found that 44 percent of the public feel that President Trump and his administration have done less to respond to the damage in Puerto Rico than they did to respond to hurricane damage in parts of Florida and Texas.
Nearly half (46 percent) say that the federal government’s response would be moving faster if Puerto Rico had been a wealthier place with fewer Hispanic people, while a similar share (44 percent) say ethnicity and poverty have not affected the recovery effort.
Views of the response vary significantly across Democrats, Republicans and independents.
Large majorities of the public, including Democrats, independents and Republicans, say they have heard ‘a lot’ about the damage Hurricane Maria caused the U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico (73 percent) and say they know the damage to the island was ‘very’ severe (88 percent). The poll was conducted just after President Trump visited Puerto Rico on October 3.
Since the hurricane, there has been some discussion of whether the U.S. public is aware that Puerto Rico is part of the United States. The public largely knows that most residents of Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens (76 percent), including at least seven in ten across parties.
This is higher than a recent online poll conducted immediately after the hurricane, which found just over half of the public was aware that people born in Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens. This difference may be due, at least in part, to the differences in question wording, poll methodology, and/or timing of the poll.
Most of the public (62 percent) says that most people in Puerto Rico affected by Hurricane Maria are not yet getting the help they need, while about a third say they are (32 percent). However, views vary by party with majorities of Democrats (80 percent) and independents (61 percent) saying people are not yet getting the help they need, compared to 56 percent of Republicans who feel they are getting the help they need.
In the wake of the hurricane and the devastation it caused, some have questioned whether the federal government is doing enough to respond. About half (52 percent) of the public says the federal government is not doing enough to restore electricity and access to food and water in Puerto Rico, while four in ten say the federal government is doing enough.
This varies greatly by party. Three-quarters of Democrats (74 percent) say the federal government is not doing enough while the same share of Republicans feel it is (74 percent). A majority of independents say the government is not doing enough (54 percent), compared to 38 percent who say it is.
People who feel that most people in Puerto Rico are getting the help they need are much more likely to say that the federal government is doing enough (78 percent), whereas those who feel like most Puerto Ricans are not yet getting what they need are most likely to say the federal government is not doing enough (75 percent).