Published: May 13, 2010 11:27 AM EDT

  WASHINGTON (AP) - The Gulf of Mexico oil spill hasn't stained
President Barack Obama nor dimmed the public's desire for offshore
energy drilling, according to a new Associated Press-GfK Poll.
      While some conservative pundits, such as Rush Limbaugh, have
called this "Obama's Katrina," that's not how the public feels,
the poll found. BP PLC, which owned the well that has gushed more
than 4 million gallons since an Apr. 20 oil rig explosion, is
getting more of the public's ire.
      More people surveyed said they approved of Obama's handling of
the ongoing oil spill than disapproved, but not by large margins or
with unusually strong feelings. It contrasts with the public's
reaction to President George W. Bush's response to another Gulf
disaster, 2005's Hurricane Katrina.
      The poll found that 42 percent approve of Obama's actions, 33
percent disapprove and 21 percent say they have neutral feelings
about his response.
      The reaction is strongly along partisan lines. Democrats lean
toward favoring Obama's actions, 58 percent to 19 percent, with 17
percent expressing neither approval nor disapproval. By 47 percent
to 27 percent, Republicans disapprove of Obama's reaction, with 23
percent saying neither. Independents are about evenly split between
approval and disapproval.
      Democrat Eduardo Martinez, 38, of West Chester, Pa., said,
"I've actually been impressed; they've put pressure on the private
sector."
      But Republican Jeff Gerow, 52, of Boca Raton, Fla., said, "Just
as I thought Bush was too slow to do anything with Katrina, even
though I'm a Republican, I think he (Obama) could have done more
with those folks."
      For Bush after Katrina, the public was harsher in its
assessment. An AP-Ipsos poll in mid-September 2005 showed Bush's
approval rating somewhat lower in the weeks following the Katrina
disaster than Obama's rating for handling the current crisis. Back
then, 35 percent approved of Bush's handling of the disaster and 42
percent disapproved, with 25 percent expressing neither approval
nor disapproval.
      The telephone poll of 1,002 adults for the latest survey was
conducted for The Associated Press by GfK Roper Public Affairs &
Media between May 7-11. It has a margin of error of plus or minus
4.3 percentage points.
      Even though BP got lower ratings than the president, it wasn't
too bad for the company formerly known as British Petroleum. Of
those polled, 49 percent disapprove of BP's actions, 32 percent
approve and 15 percent express neither approval nor disapproval.
But the feelings about BP were much more strong on the negative
end, with 32 percent strongly disapproving of its actions compared
with 6 percent who strongly approve.
      The poll also found that the public still supports the idea of
drilling offshore for oil and gas. By 50 percent to 38 percent,
more people favor increased coastal drilling for oil and gas than
oppose it.
      While Republicans favor it by a 3-to-1 margin, Democrats lean
toward opposing it, 52 percent to 36 percent. Independents are
about evenly split. Groups giving drilling the strongest support
include men, middle-aged and older people, whites and residents of
rural and suburban areas.
      The country is split about evenly over which priority is more
important in considering drilling, with 49 percent choosing the
need for the U.S. to provide its own energy and 47 percent picking
protection of the environment.
      Democrats prefer environmental protection by 62 percent to 35
percent. Republicans lean the other way, favoring the need for U.S.
energy independence by 68 percent to 28 percent. Independents are
about evenly split.
      "We need to drill here, our economy needs it, but we also need
to save the environment," said Ryan Hart, 42, of Auburn, Maine,
who considers himself politically independent.
      Before the April 20 rig accident that triggered the spill,
efforts to increase drilling offshore - which had used the slogan
"drill, baby, drill" - had a major victory when the Democratic
president partly lifted bans on drilling off many coastal areas. A
Pew Research Center poll in April 2009 found that by 68 percent to
27 percent, people favored "more offshore oil and gas drilling in
U.S. waters." That polling did not have the same questions as this
one.