More voters appear to be dissatisfied than content with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s response to an Ohio train derailment that exposed a small town to toxic chemicals in early February, according to a Harvard CAPS/Harris poll released Friday.
A Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, on Feb. 3 and a controlled burn conducted on Feb. 6 to alleviate pressure within the cars released harmful chemicals including vinyl chloride into the environment. Buttigieg caught flack for failing to respond to the derailment until ten days later, and for not visiting the derailment site until three weeks after the initial crash. (RELATED: ‘Superman’s Not Coming’: Ohioans Brace For Tough Road Ahead After Toxic Train Derailment)
Thirty-one percent of polled voters said that Buttigieg’s response to the derailment was “poor,” while 30% said that it was “fair,” according to the results. Conversely, 29% said that the response was “good,” but only 9% said it was “excellent.”
A plurality of voters blame Norfolk Southern for the derailment, while 22% blamed the Department of Transportation. A majority of voters also expressed dissatisfaction with President Joe Biden’s response, with 61% saying that he should have visited the derailment site “right away.”
I’m in East Palestine, OH where residents are already lining up for an expected visit from former President Donald Trump.@dailycaller pic.twitter.com/83DvRhOqrS
— Alexa Schwerha (@alexaschwerha1) February 22, 2023
Biden told reporters on March 2 that he would visit East Palestine “at some point,” but White House officials later flip-flopped on the President’s promise and confirmed to NBC News that there is no scheduled trip. Only 39% of voters polled said that a Biden visit to the derailment site is “not necessary.”
Biden, too, came under pressure from critics for traveling to Kviv, Ukraine, the same week that Trump visited East Palestine. Residents told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the President’s agenda was not surprising.
“The federal government, Biden, has not acknowledged East Palestine so I’m a little bit unhappy about that,” William Hugar, an East Palestine resident, previously told the DCNF. “The first week that it happened Biden was too busy popping Chinese balloons.”
A plurality of voters agreed that the federal government is not doing enough to regulate the transit or disposal of toxic chemicals and that Norfolk Southern has not committed enough money to help the community since the derailment.
Norfolk Southern details its financial support on its “Making it Right in East Palestine” webpage. It has reimbursed the local fire station $3 million for equipment used during the response and has supported the local school district and businesses.
Republican Ohio Sen. JD Vance and Democratic Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown proposed a bipartisan bill that would make several reforms aimed at preventing future train derailments. The bill would require train companies to notify local officials before toxic chemicals are transported through their communities and create an emergency response plan.
The Harris Poll and Harris X polled 2,905 registered voters between March 22-23. The survey was conducted online in the United States.
The White House and Norfolk Southern did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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