Few Georgians would turn to government for disaster relief

Athens, Ga. – In the event of a major disaster in Georgia, the public is more likely to turn to such nongovernmental organizations as churches or the Red Cross than to government, according to a November 2005 Peach State Poll, a quarterly survey of public opinion conducted by the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government. 

Just over one-third of all poll respondents said that they would turn first to a church organization if a disaster occurred; 28 percent said that they would go to the Red Cross.  Only 20 percent said that they would turn first to state or local government, and a mere 8 percent said they would turn to federal government first.

Most critical of federal disaster response are African Americans.  While 57 percent of whites in Georgia are either very confident (19 percent) or somewhat confident (38 percent) in the Federal Emergency Management Agency, only 40 percent of African Americans are either very confident (10 percent) or somewhat confident (30 percent).

“Across the board, we see consistent differences between whites and African Americans in their confidence in government’s response to a major disaster,” said poll director Rich Clark.  “While 22 percent of African Americans say that their local government is completely unprepared for a major disaster, only 9 percent of whites in Georgia share this view.”

Other Peach State Poll results:

  • Half of all Georgians believe that a major natural disaster is either very likely (19 percent) or somewhat likely (31 percent) to occur in the next two years.  Twenty-four percent of those who know someone directly affected by either Hurricanes Katrina or Rita believe that a major disaster is very likely, as opposed to only 14 percent of those who do not know someone affected by those hurricanes.
  • Knowing someone directly affected by Katrina or Rita is statistically related to lower confidence in the FEMA.
  • Those who know someone affected by Katrina or Rita are no more likely to have an emergency kit, to have gathered important documents, or to have a plan for uniting with family after a disaster than are those who do not know anyone affected by Katrina.
  • While only 6 percent of the general public in Georgia say that they are very familiar with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, the agency responsible for managing disasters in Georgia, just less than half of all Georgians (47 percent) have no familiarity whatsoever with the agency. 

These data were taken from a Peach State Poll survey conducted between October 25 and November 3, 2005. The poll included 803 telephone interviews of randomly selected adults in Georgia. For a sample of this size, the margin of error at the 95 percent confidence level is +/-3.5 percent.

The Carl Vinson Institute of Government, a public service and outreach unit of the University of Georgia, has as part of its mission to provide policymakers with systematic, objective research to inform policy decisions. In accordance with that mission, the Peach State Poll aims to give voice to the public on important policy matters and issues pertaining to political, social and economic life in Georgia.

For more information on this survey or other Peach State Poll results, visit