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Jack Zewe holds a sign asking for the resignation of Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni in Kenner City Hall Council Chambers even though Yenni was a no-show to the council meeting in Kenner, La. Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016. Yenni has not shown up to recently after allegations came to light of his sexually explicit texts to teenage boy.

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON

Seventy-nine percent of respondents to a poll conducted Tuesday by the University of New Orleans said Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni should resign from office, according to results released Thursday evening.

UNO's political science department conducted a telephone poll of 819 Jefferson Parish residents and found that 93 percent were aware of the sexting scandal that has engulfed Yenni since WWL-TV first reported the allegations on Sept. 29. 

WWL reported that Yenni sent sexually explicit texts to a 17-year-old boy last year while Yenni was mayor of Kenner and campaigning for his current job. The boy, who was not identified, said Yenni also bought him underwear and kissed him in the bathroom near where the boy worked at a local mall.

Yenni has admitted sending "improper texts" but has refused to step down despite calls to resign from the entire Parish Council, the councils of two Jefferson municipalities and almost every parishwide elected official.

On Thursday, the West Bank Business & Industry Association joined that chorus, saying that in the interest of the West Bank's business community and the entire parish, Yenni should resign "as soon as possible."

Thursday also marked the day that organizers began collecting signatures for a recall petition filed a day earlier. It will take more than 90,000 signatures of registered voters in Jefferson Parish to call an election on removing Yenni from office.  

While 79 percent of the poll respondents said Yenni should resign, 12 percent said he should not and 8 percent said they didn't know. 

Responding to the recall petition filed Wednesday, Yenni said he would "abide by the will of the people." 

He did not immediately respond to questions posed Thursday to his media consultant, Greg Buisson, about whether he believes that a poll showing an overwhelming majority of voters want him to resign represents "the will of the people."

The poll has a margin of error of 3.4 percent, according to Ed Chervenak, the UNO professor who supervised the survey, which was conducted by doctoral student Tony Licciardi.

The poll was an "interactive voice response" rather than one conducted by live interviewers. Such polls, sometimes called "robo-polls," use automated recorded questions and ask respondents to punch keys on their phones to respond. 

Among Republicans, 77 percent polled thought Yenni, who is a Republican, should resign, while 14 percent said he shouldn’t and 9 percent didn’t know.

Among Democrats, the desire to see Yenni step down was somewhat higher, with 87 percent saying he should quit, 10 percent saying he shouldn’t and 3 percent saying they didn't know.

The poll found there was almost no difference in opinion between men and women: 79 percent of each group said they thought Yenni should resign. Slightly more women than men said he should not — 13 percent to 12 percent, respectively — while 8 percent and 9 percent, respectively, said they didn’t know.

The responses of white voters tracked the overall numbers closely, with 79 percent wanting Yenni to resign, 12 percent saying he shouldn't and 9 percent saying they don't know.

Black respondents were less ambivalent, with 83 percent saying yes, 15 percent saying no and only 2 percent saying they weren't sure.

Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.