Earlier this month, a Norfolk Southern freight train carrying a number of hazardous chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. In the subsequent days, residents were evacuated from their homes while emergency crews conducted a controlled release and burn of vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, and other toxic chemicals. The evacuation order has since been lifted, but some residents aren’t convinced it’s safe to return to their homes – and the list of known chemicals the train was carrying keeps expanding.

Although the story has drawn a good deal of national media attention in the past week, it was a common refrain that the train derailment hadn’t seized front-page or 24-hour cable news attention like other major events. CivicScience wanted to first gauge how closely Americans are following this particular news story. Nearly half of U.S. adults (49%) are following the East Palestine situation at least ‘somewhat closely’ – with just 14% following it ‘very closely’ (n=2,221). That latter figure falls behind the percentage of Americans who haven’t heard about the derailment and release of chemicals at all.

State and federal leaders have drawn their share of criticism for the response to this derailment – and for overseeing the loose regulations that allowed it to happen. According to CivicScience polling, just 19% of U.S. adults familiar with the East Palestine incident would trust state and federal officials ‘a lot’ to respond to a similar incident. Forty-one percent of adults who responded don’t trust their leaders at all. Registered Democrats and Republicans familiar with the story are nearly as likely to have ‘a lot’ of trust in government leaders in this situation (21% and 20%, respectively), but Republican voters are much more likely to have no trust at all (46%) than Democrats (28%).

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