Livingston Parish voters are generally optimistic about the direction the parish is headed, but less than a third approve of the job performance of either the Parish Council or president, according to a recently released survey by JMC Analytics and Polling of Baton Rouge.
The poll was conducted Nov. 22 on behalf of Councilman Ricky Goff, who was considering a run for parish president. Goff has since chosen to run for re-election to the council’s Walker-area District 7 seat.
John Couvillon, owner of JMC Analytics and Polling, said the biggest challenge for candidates will be to establish a connection to those people who are on the fence, particularly in rapidly growing areas where a large number of residents are new to the parish.
“A lot of people have moved in from Baton Rouge and even from New Orleans and are not necessarily tuned in to what’s going on in their government,” Couvillon said Friday. “So basically, you have to reintroduce yourself to a substantial part of the population every four years.”
Couvillon noted that the poll was more specifically geared to gauge support for the parish president. The only question asked about the council was for the board as a whole, rather than individual members.
“People may have certain feelings about the council as a whole, but if you’re talking about the individual representing a particular district, it gets kind of tricky,” Couvillon said. “But it is something those on the council should be mindful of.”
When it came to job performance, only 24 percent had a favorable view of the Parish Council, while 37 percent disapproved and another 39 percent had no opinion.
Parish President Layton Ricks fared better with a 33 percent approval rating, compared to 30 percent unfavorable and 28 percent with no opinion. Eight percent of respondents said they had never heard of him.
When asked whether Ricks “deserves to be re-elected,” the largest group, at 38 percent, said they were on the fence. Thirty-two percent said no, and the remaining 30 percent said yes.
Ricks said last week he had not received a copy of the poll, but was encouraged by what he heard.
“It was run by the other side and is obviously a push poll, and yet it still showed us more favorable,” he said.
Ricks said he has not put much faith in polls since his first campaign for parish president in 2011.
“If I had gone by the polls that were out back then, I would’ve just stayed home,” he said. “It had me at a 3 percent known factor — despite four years on the Civil Service Board, four years on planning and zoning and four years as a city councilman — and Mike Grimmer was polling around 67 percent.”
Ricks said the only poll he believes is what he hears in the community.
“I’m out talking to people and know the pulse of the parish, where the weak spots are and where the strong spots are, and what’s going on as far as how the council and I are doing,” Ricks said. “I’m not taking anything for granted, but I think I’m in pretty good shape.”
Ricks’ strongest support was in Denham Springs — where 37 percent favored him and 34 percent supported his re-election in the poll — while the council was viewed as favorable in the rural southeast part of the parish, at 32 percent.
Watson respondents were the most dissatisfied: 42 percent disapproved of the council, 40 percent disapproved of Ricks and 44 percent said Ricks didn’t deserve to be re-elected.
Council Chairman Chance Parent said the big percentage of fence-sitters and high disapproval ratings tell him the public is tired of all the feuding between the council and parish president.
“That’s why I pushed for chairman, so I can change that and get the public’s trust back,” Parent said.
If he can do that, Parent said, he has no need to worry about his re-election prospects.
Goff said he commissioned the poll to get a good snapshot to help him make a decision about whether to run for parish president.
“I will run for my council seat and will focus this year and the next four years specifically on my district and not exert as much energy parishwide,” he said.
The four-question poll of likely voters in the parish drew 615 responses, with 58 percent coming from the more heavily populated west end of the parish. Forty-four percent of the respondents were Republican, 34 percent Democrat and 22 percent had no party affiliation. The poll has a margin of error of 3.9 percent.
Slightly more than half of respondents, at 51 percent, said the parish was headed in the right direction, with the highest concentration of optimism coming from Denham Springs and Walker. Watson had the highest percentage who said the parish was headed in the wrong direction, at 23 percent, while the rural northeast part of the parish had the most who were undecided — 41 percent.
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen. Contact her by phone at (225) 336-6981.