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Aug 18, 2010 11:15 PM by Chris Welty

AP Poll: BP Image Recovering From Spill, Still Low

WASHINGTON (AP) - BP's image, which took an ugly beating after
the Gulf oil spill, is recovering since the company capped the
well, though the oil giant's approval level is still anything but
robust. A majority of Americans still aren't convinced it is safe
to eat seafood from parts of the Gulf or swim in its waters, a new
AP poll shows.
Politically, President Barack Obama's rating on handling the
nation's worst oil spill has nudged up to about 50 percent, the
poll indicated. Fewer people now think the spill is a major
national issue, and more support increased drilling in U.S. coastal
waters than oppose it.
Safety remains a worry.
"Normally, I would go to the casinos and eat seafood, but now
I'm going to be kind of skeptical of eating," said Samuel
Washington, 44, who lives in Norfolk, Va., but also owns a home in
Ocean Springs, Miss. "My biggest concern is whether or not they
are really testing all the affected areas."
Approval for Obama's handling of the mess has risen from 45
percent in June, while BP's marks have more than doubled - from 15
percent to a still lackluster 33 percent. Some 66 percent of those
surveyed continue to disapprove of BP's performance, down from a
whopping 83 percent in June.
More than half, 54 percent, said they weren't confident that it
is safe yet to eat seafood from the spill areas, and 55 percent
said they weren't confident that the beaches in the affected areas
were safe for swimming.
Still, just 60 percent of those surveyed called the spill an
important issue now, down from 87 percent in June. Only 21 percent
said it would affect them and their families a great deal or a lot
in the next year, down from 40 percent in June.
"At least it did get capped. It could have been done a whole
lot sooner," said Deshon Jenkins, 33, of Arlington, Texas, who
works in shipping and warehousing and was among those who said the
spill would "not at all" affect his life.
Shrimper Patrick Hue of Buras, La., said BP has been hard at
work. "You can't deny that," he said. "They got boats out here,
they got people working. ... I guess they're cleaning up what
they're supposed to clean up."
But Connie Bartenbach, owner of Rental Resources, a Mississippi
company that specializes in vacation and corporate rentals, said BP
"ruined our whole summer. They should not be let off the hook. ...
There's no upside to this."
Between June and the week that the Associated Press-GfK poll was
conducted, Aug. 11-16, BP capped the well, it was announced that
gaffe-prone chief Tony Hayward was losing that job and the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said most of the oil had
dissolved, dispersed or been removed.
Those developments probably contributed to the improved public
attitude, though the NOAA findings have been challenged by some
ocean researchers as far too optimistic.
Whatever the case, it is clear is that the spilling of over 200
million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf no longer looms as a
commanding political issue for voters heading toward midterm
elections in November.
Voters are far more concerned about the economy, jobs and
bulging federal deficits.
The poll showed that 48 percent favor increasing drilling for
oil and gas in coastal waters, up from 45 percent in June. Some 36
percent said they opposed increased drilling, down from 41 percent.
The rest didn't have an opinion.
The spill began after the offshore drilling rig Deepwater
Horizon, operated by well owner BP and owned by Transocean Ltd.,
exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers. Only the deliberate
dumping of oil by Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War ranks in the world as a
larger spill.
For months, the spill riveted the public's attention as oil and
gas spewed relentlessly from the ocean floor, fouling marshes and
beaches and leading to the shutdown of fisheries.
Obama, who just prior to the spill had called for an increase in
offshore drilling, struggled to demonstrate leadership and fend off
GOP attacks suggesting the crisis was his equivalent of Hurricane
Katrina.
As repeated attempts to cap the well failed, Obama expressed
compassion with Gulf Coast residents and anger toward BP, delivered
a prime-time address on the issue and imposed a drilling
moratorium. He successfully pressed BP to set up a $20 billion
liability fund.
Fishing and commercial shrimping activity has been resuming as
the drilling of two relief wells, begun in May, nears completion.
The first one to reach the damaged well will seal it from below
with mud and cement. The flow of oil was cut off from the top in
mid-July.
Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government's point man
on the spill, said Wednesday he has no timeline for ordering the
completion of the relief well despite earlier plans to finish it by
early to mid-August. Stormy weather and questions of how to
mitigate potential risks in the procedure make it hard to set a
firm date, he told reporters.
Mike Voisin, who runs a Louisiana-based oyster harvesting and
processing business, said despite waves of anger directed at BP by
the public, the company has succeeded in working well with local
communities. "Did they make mistakes? Sure. Should they have been
better prepared? Yes," Voisin said. He estimated his business took
a 50 percent hit "but we'll work our way through it."
"With more than half of the American people still worried about
swimming in the Gulf or eating its seafood, we must be vigilant
about monitoring the spill and its continued effects," said Rep.
Ed Markey, D-Mass. Markey heads a House panel on energy and the
environment that is holding a hearing Thursday on seafood safety
and where the oil went.
The AP-GfK Poll was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs and
Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cell phone
interviews with 1,007 adults nationwide and had a margin of
sampling error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

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