A statewide survey found that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s approval rating sank to 38 percent following recent state budget cuts, public hospital privatizations and a proposed rewriting of the state’s tax code.
Pollsters with Southern Media and Opinion Research found “pessimism over the state’s direction” among voters, findings that a separate, unrelated poll by LSU also tracked.
The Public Policy Research Lab at LSU also released a survey Tuesday showing that 51 percent of 930 respondents questioned between Feb. 7 and March 17 thought the state was going in the wrong direction, with the economy emerging as the top concern.
Nearly 59 percent of the LSU lab’s respondents doubted state government’s ability to effectively address the most important problems. The survey had a margin of error of 3.6 percentage points.
Lane Grigsby, a Baton Rouge contractor who supports conservative causes and candidates, funded the spring survey by Southern Media, a polling firm located in the state’s capital city.
“They’re seeing a Bobby Jindal they didn’t see. They’re tired of four years of cuts, and all his (out-of-state) travels have gotten to be an irritation,” Southern Media pollster Bernie Pinsonat said.
The survey showed President Barack Obama now is slightly more popular in Louisiana than Jindal.
Jindal, who was in Shreveport on Tuesday promoting his tax package, said in a prepared statement that he cares more about unemployment numbers than approval numbers.
“The best way to grow the economy is to eliminate income taxes. We have presented a plan to do that in one year and we are in ongoing discussions with legislators about how best to reach that goal,” he said.
The governor’s political adviser, Timmy Teepell, attributed Jindal’s low approval rating to him tackling challenges.
“It’s easy to be popular, just run around and kiss babies and spend taxpayer money. But that’s not this governor’s objective. He wants to see Louisiana become the best state in the country for job creation, for good paying jobs and careers,” Teepell said.
A poll conducted last fall by Southern Media showed Jindal with a 51 percent approval rating, down from 61 percent in spring 2012 and 64 percent in fall 2011.
In February, Jindal opened time on his calendar for his first direct availability to State Capitol reporters in four months after surveys by the Louisiana State Medical Society and Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, N.C., showed the governor’s approval rating was less than 50 percent.
For the latest poll, Southern Media phoned 600 randomly selected voters between March 18 and March 20.
The margin of error was plus or minus four percentage points. Of the voters who participated, 46 percent were Democrats; 35 percent were Republicans; 69 percent were white; 28 percent were black; and 42.6 percent made between $40,000 and $100,000 a year.
The survey found that:
- 60 percent thought the state operating budget has been cut enough after back-to-back years of state spending cuts.
- Nearly 80 percent opposed further spending cuts to health care or higher education.
- 62 percent opposed the governor’s proposal to exchange the state’s personal and corporate income taxes for a higher sales tax rate and a broadened sales tax base.
- 60 percent were against privatization of the state’s public hospitals.
After the session ended last year, state revenue projections dipped, forcing midyear budget cuts. The governor chopped funding for battered women’s shelters, dental benefits for pregnant women and contract services for the poor, the mentally ill and the drug-addicted.
Jindal also wants to make dramatic changes in how health care for the poor and uninsured is handled. He wants private hospitals to care for patients currently seeking treatment at public hospitals and clinics. The move would change the structure of much of the state’s charity hospital system.
In the legislative session that starts Monday, legislators will debate the governor’s proposal to eliminate the state’s personal income and corporate taxes in favor of a higher sales tax rate and taxes on currently untaxed services such as hair cuts, pet vaccinations and cable television.