Three years after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Americans are still likely to have an unfavorable view of the company involved in the disaster, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll. While BP has spent millions on ads touting the company's cleanup efforts, it's unclear whether those ads have really helped BP's image.
According to the new poll, 43 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of the multinational oil-and-gas company, and 31 percent have a favorable view. Yet 43 percent also said that BP has done an excellent or good job at cleaning up the 2010 Gulf oil spill, compared to 41 percent who said that BP has done only a fair or poor job.
The Deepwater Horizon spill was a huge public relations debacle for BP, and the results of the poll help to show why. Even three years after the oil started gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, 65 percent of respondents said they had heard a lot about it, while 27 percent said they had heard a little and only 8 percent said they had heard nothing at all.
Given that level of public awareness, it's not surprising that BP has spent millions of dollars on advertising in response to the spill, including almost $100 million during the four months of the spill itself. (The company has also spent $42 billion to cover costs related to the spill.)
That advertising has reached a majority of Americans, according to the survey. Sixty-seven percent said they had seen BP's TV ads about cleaning up after the spill, compared to the 33 percent who said either that they had not seen the ads (23 percent) or that they weren't sure (10 percent).
But the survey found mixed evidence for how well those ads are working to improve BP's public image.
Among those who had seen the commercials, 28 percent said their opinion of the company had thereby become more favorable and 11 percent said their opinion had become less favorable. But 59 percent said that seeing the ads had not changed their view at all.
The margin between unfavorable and favorable views of BP was 51 to 34 percent among those who had seen the ads and 32 to 24 percent among those who had not seen the ads. Forty-five percent of those who had not seen the ads said they weren't sure how to rate BP.
It's unclear to what extent those opinions were formed by viewing BP's ads. Respondents who said they had seen the ads were also far more likely to say that they had "heard a lot" about the spill. And respondents who said they had not seen the ads were less likely both to rate BP overall and to rate the company's effectiveness in cleaning up the oil.
But those who had seen the ads also said, by 51 to 42 percent, that the company had done an excellent or good job cleaning up the spill rather than only a fair or poor job. Among those who had not seen the ads, 31 percent called it an excellent or good job, while 44 percent said it was a fair or poor job.
The poll was conducted April 12-13 among 1,000 adults using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.