Whenever we’re faced with some new crisis – real, like a natural disaster, or imagined, such as the supposed epidemic of gun violence in America – the narrative in the media quickly becomes “what’s the government going to do about it.” Reporters demand answers, politicians grandstand and what we usually get stuck with is a whole lot of spending and knee-jerk policies that do more harm than good.
But what if, in the midst of crisis, private help from neighbors and friends were more important than the government? According to an AP/NORC poll, Americans found one another more helpful than government after Hurricane Sandy:
– Forty-one percent in the affected counties said they sought help from friends, family or neighbors, with about 6 in 10 of those who got the help saying it was deeply helpful.
– Sixteen percent said they contacted the federal government, and 7 percent said they contacted their state government, in the wake of the storm. Nineteen percent who sought help from the federal government said it was helpful; twice as many (38 percent) said the feds were no help at all.
– Along with friends, family and neighbors, first responders were also viewed as helpful by most in the affected areas. Sixty percent of those surveyed who turned to first responders for help said they provided quite a bit or a great deal of assistance.
– In the event a major disaster were to happen in their neighborhood today, 7 in 10 Americans say they would be able to rely a great deal or quite a bit on their local police, fire department, ambulance and other first responders for help.
– Thirty-one percent of those who asked utility companies for help reported they received at least quite a bit of help during or after the storm. Fewer called state and federal governments helpful, with 26 percent and 19 percent, respectively, reporting receiving a great deal or quite a bit of help from those sources.
The poll indicates about what you’d expect. When it comes to first-responders – medics, law enforcement, evacuations, etc. – the government does a pretty good job. When it comes to recovery after the fact, most think the government does a pretty shoddy job.
That’s a fascinating outcome given, again, the perception of disaster policy we get from the media. You’d think we’d never recover from disasters were it not for the government, and yet it seems the government’s recovery efforts really accomplish very little.