As confidence rises, new worries emerge

The fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina inspired quite a lot of soul-searching in southeast Louisiana as people pondered their journeys since the disaster and the future ahead. The results of one poll of New Orleans residents highlight areas of both rising hopes and heightened anxieties for the city.

The study, conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit based in Menlo Park, Calif., found an increasing majority of the city’s residents believe Katrina recovery is going well.

“The people of New Orleans believe that the Katrina recovery, while far from complete, is on the right track in a number of areas,” says Mollyann Brodie, the foundation’s senior vice president and director for public opinion and survey research.

This 2010 survey marks the first time since Katrina that a majority of residents told Kaiser Foundation pollsters that they see progress in rebuilding devastated areas. The foundation has been following the Katrina recovery since 2006, and this latest survey is its third since that time. It found that 70 percent of residents say recovery and rebuilding are going in the right direction, up from 56 percent in its 2008 poll. Some 68 percent of respondents said they have recovered from the storm, up from 60 percent from two years ago. Two-thirds see progress in repairing the damaged flood control systems and a majority of people reported visible progress in the public school system.

While the foundation says that most city residents see “real progress” on a majority of recovery issues, it also found persistent concerns about crime and access to medical care. In addition, pollsters found significant new fears for the impact of the Gulf oil disaster.

“Residents report a lot of progress in the recovery effort, but just as the city appeared to be turning a corner it got hit by a different kind of hurricane, the oil spill,” says foundation president Drew Altman.

Close to half of the city’s residents told pollsters they believed the oil spill would cause more damage to New Orleans than Katrina, with most citing potential damage to the New Orleans economy and local environment as top threats. Still, only about half of respondents said the spill was having a direct impact on their lives.


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