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Two months after Maria, a growing majority of Americans say that Puerto Ricans are not getting the help they need

In an ongoing effort to track the public’s awareness and perceptions of the impact of Hurricane Maria on people in Puerto Rico, the November Kaiser Health Tracking poll finds that most of the public (63 percent) says they are closely following news about the recovery effort. Compared to last month, and now two months after the hurricane made landfall on the island, more of the public now says people in Puerto Rico are not yet getting needed help, rising from 62 percent in October to 70 percent this month. These views vary considerably by party, but this month half of Republicans (52 percent) also say people are not yet getting the help they need, up from 38 percent in October. Similarly, most of the public (59 percent) says the federal government is not doing enough to restore electricity and access to food and water in Puerto Rico; again, slightly higher than the share last month (52 percent). On this point, most Republicans (63 percent) feel the federal government is doing enough, while majorities of independents (59 percent) and Democrats (86 percent) feel it is not.

In addition to Puerto Rico, the Texas gulf coast and Houston areas are undergoing significant rebuilding and recovery efforts after Hurricane Harvey struck in late-August. As with Puerto Rico’s recovery effort, most of the public also reports closely following news about the recovery in the Houston area after Hurricane Harvey. However, unlike views on Puerto Rico, a majority, including majorities across parties, feel that Texans affected by Hurricane Harvey are getting the help they need (60 percent).

Most Americans Report Closely Following News About Hurricane Recovery Efforts in Puerto Rico and Texas

About two months after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico causing massive damage to much of the island’s basic infrastructure, most Americans (63 percent) say they’re following news about the rebuilding and recovery efforts in Puerto Rico at least somewhat closely. In comparison, a similar share of the public says they are following recovery efforts in Texas after Hurricane Harvey struck the Houston area in late-August at least somewhat closely (58 percent).

Figure 1: Majority of the Public Reports Following Post-Hurricane Recovery Efforts in Texas and Puerto Rico Closely

However, the share of the public that reports following news about Puerto Rico varies by party, with more Democrats (75 percent) saying they are closely following recovery efforts in Puerto Rico than independents (61 percent) and Republicans (54 percent). In contrast, there are no partisan differences for those following news about Texas; similar shares of Democrats (62 percent), independents (60 percent) and Republicans (58 percent) say they are closely following news about recovery from Hurricane Harvey.

Figure 2: Public’s Attention to Recovery Efforts in Puerto Rico Varies by Party, Not So for Rebuilding in Texas

Most Feel Puerto Ricans Are Not Yet Getting Needed Help, But Say Texans Are

Seven in ten of the public feel that people in Puerto Rico are not yet getting the help they need, up from 62 percent in October 2017. These perceptions vary considerably by party, however half of Republicans (52 percent) now say Puerto Ricans aren’t yet getting needed help, up from 38 percent in October.

Figure 3: More Now Say Most People in Puerto Rico Affected by Hurricane Maria Are Not Yet Getting the Help They Need

A Tale of Two Hurricanes: Most Americans say Texans are getting the help they need, but Puerto Ricans are not

On the other hand, the majority of public (60 percent) thinks people affected by Hurricane Harvey are getting the help they need. There is some variation by party, but it is not as stark as the partisan differences when asking about Puerto Rico. Overall, majorities of Democrats (54 percent), independents (61 percent), and Republicans (69 percent) say Texans affected by Hurricane Harvey are getting the help they need.

Figure 4: Public’s Views of Hurricane Response Vary for Puerto Rico and Texas

Majority of the Public Says Federal Government is Not Doing Enough in Puerto Rico

When asked whether the federal government is doing enough to restore electricity and access to food and water in Puerto Rico or not, a majority of the public (59 percent) says the federal government is not doing enough, including a majority of Democrats (86 percent) and independents (59 percent). On the other hand, most Republicans (63 percent) say the federal government is doing enough in Puerto Rico. Pessimism towards the federal government’s response has grown from 52 percent in October to 59 percent this month.

Figure 5: More than Half of the Public Says Federal Government Is Not Doing Enough to Restore Basic Services in Puerto Rico

Methodology

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.