This year's budget cuts, especially to state funded health care, are proving unpopular with Louisiana voters, according to Southern Media & Opinion Research Inc.'s latest statewide survey.
Sixty-eight percent of survey respondents said the budget has been cut enough. Forty-three percent said the cuts have had a negative impact on their family, 36 percent among Republicans.
Reductions for the LSU-operated charity hospital system are particularly unpopular. Eighty-nine percent said they were concerned by the cuts. Seventy-nine percent said the charity system would not be able to provide the same quality of health care, and 80 percent said Louisiana residents would lose access to health care as a result.
The poll shows Gov. Bobby Jindal with a 51 percent approval rating. That compares with 61 percent last spring and 64 percent a year ago. While the governor still has strong support among fellow Republicans, a majority of Democrats in the latest poll said his job performance was "not so good" or "poor."
Developed and conducted by Southern Opinion & Media Research, the poll included telephone interviews with 600 randomly selected Louisiana voters Sept. 11-20. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points at a 95 percent level of confidence.
Among the poll's other findings:
- Regarding this year's education reforms, 69 percent of respondents support increasing standards for teacher tenure, while 73 percent support increased teacher accountability and 56 percent support increased control for principals. On the issue of school vouchers, 54 percent were opposed.
- Salaries for state executives and political appointees were a hot button issue with 86 percent saying annual salaries of $175,000 and above are excessive or not justified.
- 47 percent favor eliminating tax exemptions to increase state revenue compared to 35 percent opposed, which tracks with widespread opposition to deeper budget cuts.
- 69 percent said the Legislature should be more independent from the governor.
- On this fall's presidential race, 45 percent said they would vote for Republican Mitt Romney, 39 percent favor the Democratic incumbent Barack Obama and 17 percent were undecided.
This survey was funded by Lane Grigsby in an effort to share the thoughts of the electorate with Louisiana elected officials. Grigsby has committed to underwriting a Louisiana voter survey biannually. For more information and to view the complete survey results, visit www.laplaintalk.com.
Southern Media & Opinion Research
Fall 2012 Survey Analysis
Additional budget cuts unwanted
The survey shows 68 percent of respondents don't want additional cuts to the state's operating budget. Forty-three percent say they've been impacted by the spending cuts.
Two thirds said they were aware of cuts to the state's charity hospital system, and 89 percent said they're somewhat or very concerned about them. When asked whether the charity system can still deliver the same quality of patient care, 79 percent said no. Eighty percent said Louisiana residents would lose access to health care through the charity system.
Political impacts of budget cuts
Budget reductions, especially those to the charity hospital system - one of the state's most treasured government institutions - are pushing white Democrats away from Republicans who control the Legislature and most statewide elected offices. Additional cuts could reverse the success Republicans have seen in attracting white Democrats to vote for them.
Forty-one percent of respondents said they most often agree with the actions of the Republican Party. While 49 percent of respondents were registered Democrats, only 37 percent said they agree with actions of the Democratic Party. Government reform and spending cuts are historically popular, though that can't be said of the charity hospital system. Most voters, even the wealthiest, said they're concerned those cuts will affect the quality of health care that charity hospitals provide.
Jindal's job ratings
Over the past five years, Gov. Bobby Jindal has received high job performance ratings from Republicans and most white Democrats. The latest survey shows that while Jindal still gets high ratings from 78 percent of Republicans, 63 percent of Democrats rate his performance as "not so good" or "poor."
Overall, he has a positive job rating of 51 percent compared to a 45 percent negative rating. That compares with a 61 percent approval last spring and 64 percent approval a year ago. The latest survey likely reflects dissatisfaction over the administration's budget cuts, education reforms opposed by teachers and attempts to reform state employee retirement systems and privatize state prisons. Forty-three percent of respondents said this year's budget cuts have negatively impacted their families, including 36 percent among Republicans.
Asked about this year's education reforms, 26 percent of respondents voiced support compared to 39 percent opposed, while 35 percent were undecided. When asked about specific measures, however, respondents favored several, including increased teacher accountability, higher standards for teachers becoming tenured and giving school principals more control. On the issue of school vouchers, 54 percent were opposed.
While Jindal's popularity fell with residents' displeasure over budget cuts, it's not surprising that 69 percent of respondents said the Legislature should be more independent from the governor.
Big salaries for state employees
The survey showed that salaries for political appointees and state executives are becoming a hot button issue, especially against the backdrop of significant cuts to the charity hospital system. Eighty-six percent of respondents said that salaries over $175,000 are excessive or not justified. Many residents are questioning how state government can afford these salaries in light of cuts to health care and higher education. The results hint at how the issue of high salaries for political appointees could play a role in the 2015 governor's race.
The survey shows President Barack Obama remains unpopular with most Louisiana voters, though the 2012 election may not be as lopsided as 2008. When respondents were asked which political party they prefer to control Congress, the results were virtually even between Democrats and Republicans.
Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu has the highest job performance of any statewide elected official. While this bodes well for her heading into a 2014 reelection bid, the survey shows that her vote for President Obama's health care reform could be a major obstacle. In addition, a Republican challenger could benefit from a lower turnout, since 2014 falls outside the presidential cycle.
Respondents were evenly divided on Jindal's decision to not participate in the Affordable Care Act. The results of this survey question illustrates why the governor is losing support among white Democrats, since 58 percent of those respondents said they disagree with his decision.
By a slight majority, respondents said they opposed Louisiana governors getting involved in national politics. About 63 percent of Republicans support governors' involvement, while 61 percent of Democrats are opposed.
Eliminating tax exemptions
Most respondents said they favor eliminating tax exemptions to increase state revenue. The result is not surprising, considering attitudes toward additional budget cuts.
Respondents generally rated their parish tax assessor favorably. When asked how much of the property in their own parish is valued below its actual worth, 56 percent said "most" or "some." Only 31 percent said they knew whether property assessments were available online.