Poll: Americans think Hurricane Katrina worse than Syria crisis

A recent poll found that most Americans are not aware of the enormity of the crisis in Syria, a conflict that has so far impacted an estimated 9.3 million people. That’s nearly as many as affected by Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti, and the Indian Ocean tsunami combined.

By Johnny Cruz and Lauren Fisher, World Vision U.S.
Published March 10, 2014 at 11:30am PDT

Almost three years into the conflict in Syria, many Americans do not know the full scale of the crisis, according to a new poll conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of World Vision among more than 2,000 U.S. adults.

Most Americans not familiar with crisis in Syria

The poll found that when presented with a list of prominent humanitarian crises, more Americans select Hurricane Katrina (16 percent) as having affected the greatest number of people than select the conflict in Syria (10 percent).

So far the conflict in Syria has impacted an estimated 9.3 million people — nearly as many as those affected by Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti, and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami combined.

The study also found one in five Americans (21 percent) admit to being not at all familiar with the conflict.

Adults age 18-34 are significantly less likely to be familiar with the conflict than those age 35 or older (29 percent saying they are “not at all familiar” versus 18 percent of those age 35+ who said the same).

Those who are familiar are overwhelmingly likely to say the United States should do something to help, either through increased humanitarian aid, increased diplomatic pressure, or other measures (76 percent, versus 24 percent who say the United States should not help in any way).

Crisis in Syria enters third year

As the three-year anniversary of the conflict in Syria approaches this weekend, more than 100,000 people have died and an estimated 9 million people have been forced from their homes — either within Syria or in neighboring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.

A total of 9.3 million Syrians are currently in need of humanitarian aid, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. More than half of those impacted are children.

“Each day, millions of children are caught in the middle of the Syrian crisis, struggling for the basics of survival like food, somewhere to live, and a safe place to call home. They face the threat of bombs, gunfire, early marriage, and being forced to work to provide for their families,” said Conny Lenneberg, World Vision’s regional leader for the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

“Yet many of us turn away, sometimes purposely turning a blind eye to all that is happening. Although it’s painful to see the reality, it’s vital that we do so. An entire generation is depending on us.”

World Vision’s response in the region

World Vision has been responding to the crisis in Syria by helping people in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan, supporting more than 300,000 with water, sanitation services, household supplies, and healthcare, with a focus on the protection and well-being of children.

This poll comes as World Vision is releasing a new report completely written and researched by refugee children of the Syrian crisis, titled “Our Uncertain Future.” In the report, children found that 86 percent of their peers have been exposed to violence.

The survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of World Vision from February 28-March 4, 2014, among 2,040 adults ages 18 and older.

Learn more

Three ways you can help

  • Pray for the children and families forced to flee their homes because of violence. Millions are now living in squalid conditions, both inside Syria and in neighboring countries, without access to basic essentials. Pray especially for an end to the hostilities that are fueling an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. Consider using our prayer guide.
  • Make a one-time donation to help those affected by conflict in Syria. Your contribution will help provide essentials like hygiene kits, food vouchers, and established Child-Friendly Spaces, as well as stoves, fuel, and shelter materials to help families survive the harsh winter months.
  • Speak out. Join us in calling on world leaders to take action to ensure the immediate protection of children.


  • Americans think Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake affected more people than the conflict in Syria.
  • More than one-fifth of Americans are not at all familiar with the Syria conflict.
  • Of those familiar with the conflict, three-fourths think the United States should help people affected in some way.

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