Tale of Two Cities: Views of Katrina Recovery in New Orleans Divide along Racial Lines

BATON ROUGE – African American and white residents of New Orleans see the progress of recovery since Hurricane Katrina very differently, according to a new survey from the Manship School of Mass Communication’s Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs at LSU. 

Nearly 80 percent of the city’s white residents feel Louisiana has mostly recovered, but 59 percent of African Americans say it has not. Far more of the city’s white residents see progress in the local economy, public schools, flood protection and the quality of life in their community than do African American residents.   

“White and African American residents of New Orleans tend to see the past decade in very different ways,” said Professor Michael Henderson, who directed the survey. “Most white residents think life in New Orleans is better today – not simply better than the toughest times that followed Hurricane Katrina, but better than it was before the storm even arrived. Most African American residents do not feel that way.”

Henderson will present further details from the survey at “New Orleans: Ten Years Later,” The Atlantic’s conference on the city’s recovery, to be held at the Sheraton New Orleans on Aug. 24.

Outside of New Orleans, the rest of Louisiana has a more positive view of the recovery.  Two-thirds of Louisiana residents say the state has mostly recovered from Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, which made landfall in the southwest part of the state one month later. In areas that had less widespread or catastrophic flooding than New Orleans, large majorities feel the state has recovered. Only in Plaquemines and St. Bernard Parishes, which experienced near total inundation from Hurricane Katrina and where only 44 percent say the state has mostly recovered, do evaluations resemble those seen in New Orleans. 

Louisiana residents are not convinced that either the state or their own communities received a fair allocation of recovery dollars. Thirty-eight percent say Louisiana received enough federal money compared to other states, but 45 percent say it did not. Forty-five percent say their own community received a fair share of recovery money, but 36 percent say they did not. New Orleans residents have a more unified voice on these questions. Sixty-two percent say Louisiana did not receive enough money and 59 percent say their community did not receive a fair amount. 

Statewide, 77 percent felt the government should have done all it could to help people displaced by the storms return home, but only 38 percent felt the government actually did all it could. The gap between beliefs about what the government should have done and what it did is even larger in New Orleans, where 86 percent say the government should have done all it could and only 27 percent believe it did.    

About the Survey

Data in this report are from randomly selected representative samples of adult residents of New Orleans, Greater New Orleans including Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard and St. Tammany Parishes and southwest Louisiana including Calcasieu, Cameron and Vermilion Parishes as well as a randomly selected representative statewide sample of adult Louisiana residents. The total combined sample size contains 2,195 respondents, including 422 respondents in New Orleans.

Data were collected via telephone interviews conducted from July 7 to Aug. 10, 2015, using both traditional landline phone numbers and cell phone numbers. The regional samples and the combined total sample are weighted using an iterative procedure that matches race and ethnicity, education, household income, gender and age to known profiles for the respective areas found in the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The samples are also weighted for population density by parish using parameters from census data. The total sample has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.1 percentage points and the New Orleans sample has a margin of error of +/- 5.2.

 A copy of the report containing these results is available at: www.survey.lsu.edu




Contact Michael Henderson
Public Policy Research Lab


Contact Alison Satake
LSU Media Relations