Americans give BP benefit of doubt over Gulf of Mexico oil spill

They don’t seem that critical anyway, 36 per cent of respondents to a Pew Research Center poll calling BP’s response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill ‘only fair’, ahead of the 27 per cent who described it as ‘poor.’ Well only fair’s not that bad. 19 per cent even thought it was ‘good.’

And even though 55 per cent of respondents thought the spill a ‘major environmental disaster’ 51 per cent thought the US should still allow offshore drilling, not that much of a reduction from the level in favour in previous pre-spill polls.

So, while the spill isn’t doing much for wildlife, fishing and the beaches in the Gulf it doesn’t seen to have hammered BP’s reputation that much, which is some consolation for BP chief executive Tony Hayward and his head of media former FT editor Andrew Gowers.

Hayward turning up in person to be kicked around by interviewers and US officials seems to have done him some good, as has his promise to pay for damage. Although this may change of course as BP and rig owner TransOcean wrangle over who’s liable for what.

And BP has sprinkled a fair amount of dollars around among locals in the region, an important factor in a part of America still struggling to overcome the effects of hurricane Katrina.

Longer term there are issues for BP in terms of gaining future drilling rights and, of course, the billions of dollars it will have to pay out in compensation. But cash is the least of BP’s problems.

It won’t have eluded anyone in the giant oil company that its expensive and much-praised ‘Beyond Petroleum’ makeover a few years ago is looking a bit sick now.

But that’s the trouble with these things. You can hardly ditch them, you just have to live up to them.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.