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New Orleans: The Long Road Back

A new survey of New Orleans area residents shows how deeply Hurricane Katrina continues to plague the lives of those living in the city's hardest-hit parishes.

In the poll, released today by the Kaiser Family Foundation, eight in 10 residents of Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes said Katrina had a negative impact on their financial situation, personal life, health or career. Overall, only 34 percent said they felt "very satisfied" with their overall quality of life today; a stark contrast to the two-thirds who reported being that happy with their lives before the storm. (In the city itself, just 25 percent said they were very satisfied with their lives today.)

Part of the dissatisfaction many residents now feel may stem from broad disappointment in the rebuilding effort. For example, while more than half of the residents in these four parishes said repairing the levees, pumps and floodwalls is "one of the top" priorities, only 15 percent felt "a lot of progress" has been made.

Similarly, although nearly half say controlling crime and assuring public safety is a top priority, fewer than one in 10 say a lot of progress has been made in restoring public safety. The table below compares the priorities and progress.

Progress vs. Priorities in New Orleans

% saying "One of the top priorities"% saying "A lot of progress" made
Repairing the levees, pumps and floodwalls5415
Controlling crime and assuring public safety486
Getting medical facilities and services up and running417
Getting basic services such as electricity and water functioning3631
Getting schools up and running3112
Rebuilding destroyed neighborhoods316
Getting businesses up and running288
Making affordable housing more available285
Fixing streets and cleaning up trash2111
Getting the public transportation system up and running177
Full question wording available here.

Nevertheless, most of those polled said they see a brighter future. Nearly seven in 10 reported optimism about the future of the greater New Orleans area, and 63 percent said the recovery and rebuilding effort is going in the right direction. Many also see at least one positive outcome: Three quarters said they're better able to cope with future stresses because of their experiences with Katrina.

On many measures, the poll documents deeply different experiences for white and black residents, some which are highlighted in Peter Whoriskey's story in today's Washington Post.

Polling in New Orleans is complicated by the severe disruption to lives and residential phone lines. Other polls, including an ABC News poll last fall augmented a traditional landline sample with a cell phone sample. Here, Kaiser used face-to-face interviews among a random sample of 1,504 adult residents in Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes. The results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points. Complete detail available at the Kaiser Family Foundation website.

By Jennifer Agiesta  |  May 10, 2007; 1:00 AM ET
Categories:  Polls  
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