LSU poll shows opposition to removing Confederate statues; southwest Louisiana among most conservative _lowres

Advocate staff photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK -- Mike Henderson, director of the LSU Public Policy Research Lab, gives a presentation on the 2016 Louisiana Survey results Monday, April 18, 2016, during a meeting of the Acadiana Press Club at The Daily Advertiser in Lafayette, La.

A large majority of Louisianians surveyed support charter schools and raising the minimum wage and oppose removing Confederate monuments from public spaces, while the state remains as divided as in recent years on gun restrictions and whether religious beliefs provide an avenue to refuse services to same-sex couples, according to results from LSU’s annual statewide poll presented Monday in Lafayette.

The survey also shows southwest Louisiana as the most, or among the most, conservative regions in the state when it comes to social issues, said Michael Henderson, director of LSU’s Public Policy Research Lab.

Of the 1,001 Louisiana residents polled across the state by phone in February, 72 percent said they support charter schools, 76 percent said they support raising the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour, and 73 percent said they oppose removing monuments of Confederate soldiers from public spaces.

Fifty-two percent of respondents said businesses should be able to refuse service to same-sex couples based on religious grounds, and 55 percent said they support restricted access to firearms, although bans on assault weapons still are opposed by a large majority.

Henderson presented some of the survey’s findings at the Monday meeting of the Acadiana Press Club.

Statewide, more than two-thirds of the respondents, 68 percent, said they support charter schools — with two-thirds of both public school and nonpublic-school parents giving the same response — and the idea of raising the minimum wage from $7.25 was among “the most wildly popular things on the survey,” Henderson said.

Among the more surprising results, Henderson said, was the racial makeup of the almost three-fourths of respondents who oppose removing Confederate monuments from public spaces. Eighty-eight percent of white respondents said they oppose removing the monuments, and 47 percent of black respondents said they felt the same. Only 20 percent of all respondents said they support their removal.

Responses changed when pollsters were asked specifically about whether or not people supported specialty Louisiana license plates for the Sons of Confederate Veterans that portray the Confederate battle flag. Forty-nine percent of respondents support issuing the plates. Broken down by race: 61 percent of white respondents favor allowing the plates, while 66 percent of black respondents oppose it.

Henderson said surveyors did not collect data to explain the difference in opinion between the two issues.

When it comes to same-sex marriage, public opinion in Louisiana has not budged for the past two years and since the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the legality of same-sex marriage in June, with only 41 percent of respondents saying businesses should be required to provide services to all customers. Support for same-sex marriage diminished as pollsters looked in higher age groups, with 54 percent of respondents ages 18 to 29 saying they favor same-sex marriage and 70 percent of those 65 and older opposing it.

Although at 61 percent, a large majority of respondents oppose a statewide ban on assault weapons — the same percentage opposed it when surveyors asked the question three years ago — while 55 percent of respondents support statewide restrictions on firearms access.

Respondents remained conservative on other social issues. Fifty-five percent of Louisiana respondents said they think abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, while 40 percent said it should be legal in all or most cases. About two-thirds of residents oppose allowing Syrian refugees into the state, with only 24 percent in favor of the idea.

Few respondents see improvements in race relations in the state. At 33 percent, a third think race relations are getting worse; 49 percent say they’re about the same; and 16 percent say they’re improving. The responses are about 7 percentage points in difference between white and black respondents, with 37 percent of black respondents suggesting relations are getting worse and 30 percent of white respondents saying the same.

The survey sample has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

Although southwest Louisiana has traditionally maintained a lax attitude on alcohol and gambling laws compared with its neighbors in north Louisiana, those are the social issues “of yesteryear,” Henderson said.

“Southwest Louisiana is in lockstep with social conservatism with north Louisiana,” Henderson said.

Researchers defined southwest Louisiana as a 13-parish region of Acadia, Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Evangeline, Iberia, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary and Vermilion.

Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.