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University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 9, 2008

UI Hawkeye Poll: one-fourth of Iowans financially affected by summer's disasters

Nearly one-quarter of Iowans were financially affected by the summer's natural disasters, according to University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll results released today.

Five percent of respondents said their pocketbooks were very much affected by the floods and tornados, and 18 percent said they were somewhat affected.

"We found that nearly half -- 45 percent -- of Iowans say they live in or near communities affected by tornados or floods," said Hawkeye Poll Co-director Caroline Tolbert, a political scientist in the UI College of Liberal Sciences. "This puts into perspective just how many Iowans were hit by these disasters."

The Hawkeye Poll was conducted by phone Aug. 4-13. The results include responses from 709 of registered Iowa voters, with a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percent.
Topline results are available at


Volunteerism high, especially among young adults

Iowans report they volunteered in large numbers during and after the disasters.

Almost 41 percent of respondents said they or a family member had volunteered by sandbagging or helping out in other ways after flooding or tornados.

National studies show that Iowans volunteer at high rates compared to people in other states, but the extent of the public response to the state's natural disasters this summer was still "surprising and gratifying," said Tom Rice, professor and chair the UI political science department.

Younger Iowans were especially likely to help. Fifty-four percent those under age 30 volunteered, compared to 50 percent of those ages 30-44, 49 percent of those ages 45-59, and 31 percent of the 60-plus age group.

"Scholars have generally noted lower levels of volunteerism among the young, but that wasn't the case this summer in Iowa," Rice said.


Communities get highest marks for disaster response

The survey asked people who lived in an area directly affected by the natural disasters to rate their own community response. More than half said their community response (citizens and/or local government) was excellent.

Iowans gave the state government higher marks than the federal government in terms of disaster response.

Seventy-seven percent of all respondents said the state government had done a good or excellent job in responding to the disasters, but less than half -- 48 percent -- said the federal government had done a good or excellent job.

"In general, people have more positive feelings about their local government and less positive feelings about the federal government," said David Redlawsk, director of the Hawkeye Poll and associate professor of political science at the UI. "We see that effect even more than usual, as Iowans give high marks to both their own community's response and the state government's, but find the federal government lacking. This may give Gov. Chet Culver more leverage as he challenges the federal government to respond more directly to the Iowa disasters."

When asked to rate the response by state government, 26 percent of respondents said it did an excellent job and another 52 percent said good. Only 10 percent rated federal response as excellent, and 38 percent said good.

"One thing is certain: Iowans have strong, positive feelings about their own communities," Tolbert said. "And, overall, Iowans felt the state government responded well to the natural disasters affecting their state."


Flooded communities more likely to be impressed with government response

People living the most severely flood-damaged areas -- Congressional Districts 1 or 2, which include Cedar Rapids and Iowa City -- were satisfied with the state's reaction, with 30 percent describing the response as excellent. Those in the moderately damaged Congressional District 3, which includes Des Moines, felt equally positive, with 31 percent ranking state response as excellent.

But in Congressional Districts 4 and 5, with little to no flood damage, only 20 percent rated the state response as excellent.

A similar pattern emerged for attitudes about the federal response to the damage. Almost half of residents of severely damaged districts rated the federal response as good or excellent (37 percent good; 12 percent excellent). Nearly 55 percent of residents in moderately damaged districts rated federal response as good or excellent (47 percent good; 7.5 excellent). But, only 44 percent of those living in areas with no damage rated the federal response as good or excellent.

"The true test is whether individuals living in areas damaged by the flood -- and thus the most in need of help -- evaluated their state government positively," Tolbert said. "And, Iowans living in flood-damaged areas had more positive attitudes about the state government response by 10 percentage points."


Trust in government connected to perceptions of disaster response

People who have a higher level of trust in state government in general were more likely to describe the state's response to the disasters as excellent.

Forty-three percent of Iowans with high trust in the state government in general rated its response as excellent. Of those with moderate to low faith in state government, only 23 percent rated its response as excellent. Among those who do not trust state government, only 18 percent rated its response as top-notch.


About the University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll

The University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll is directed by David Redlawsk and co-directed by Caroline Tolbert, both associate professors of political science in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. William Franko, a graduate student in political science, and Tom Rice, chair of the UI political science department contributed to this Hawkeye Poll report. The Hawkeye Poll is a teaching, research and service project of the Department of Political Science and is housed at the UI's Social Science Research Center, directed by UI Sociology Professor Kevin Leicht. The university's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Office of the Provost provided funding for the poll.

For results of past Hawkeye Polls, a list of UI political experts, and trading prices for Election 2008 contracts on the Tippie College of Business' Iowa Electronic Markets, visit

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Caroline Tolbert, UI Hawkeye Poll, 319-335-2358 (office),; Tom Rice, Department of Political Science, UI Hawkeye Poll, 319-335-2249,; David Redlawsk, UI Hawkeye Poll, 319-335-2352 (office), 319-400-1134 (cell),; Nicole Riehl, UI News Services, 319-384-0070 (office), 319-430-6576 (cell),