BR.idacoverage.083121 0300 bf.jpg

Vehicles travel around a tree resting in the westbound lane of Goodwood Avenue, between Lobdell Drive and Jefferson Hwy, after taking out the power lines due to wind damage caused by Hurricane Ida Monday August 30, 2021, in Baton Rouge, La.

More than two-thirds of Baton Rouge residents believe weather in the parish is becoming more extreme, although they’re split down ideological lines on whether or not climate change is driving the storms, according to a recent survey conducted for a foundation that aims to improve the quality of life in the capital region.

That divide between self-identified conservatives and liberals translated into the level of support from either group for government proposals to fight climate change like offering alternatives to driving, shifting tax incentives to renewable energy and building electric vehicle charging stations.

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation has commissioned LSU's Public Policy Research Lab each year since 2008 for a "CityStats" survey asking parish residents to opine on a broad range of local and national issues. The first set of data from the 2021 survey was released in August. Along with climate change, the second set included questions on government flood insurance subsidies, transportation and universal pre-K and child care.

Pollsters conducted live interviews with 549 residents of East Baton Rouge, 83 via landline, 422 via cellphone and 44 who responded online through a text message link. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points. Results were weighted by age, race and gender to more closely resemble the demographic breakdowns of the most recently available census data.

Climate change created the starkest divide between liberal and conservative residents.

Extreme weather has plagued the parish since 2016, when a storm dropped more than 20 inches of rain on some parts of southeast Louisiana, flooding thousands of homes. Louisiana has since seen record hurricane seasons, an ice storm, flooding that destroyed more than 1,000 homes in the parish in May and the landfall of Hurricane Ida in late August as a strong Category 4 storm.

Sixty-seven percent of residents said they think the weather is becoming more extreme — although 84% of Democrats and 40% of Republicans hold that belief.

Only 26% of residents who said weather is becoming more extreme solely blamed climate change for it. Thirty-two percent said climate change in conjunction with natural variations is driving the shift, and 5% blamed only natural variations.

The remaining 37% didn’t know or didn’t answer, according to the survey.

Top stories in Baton Rouge in your inbox

Twice daily we'll send you the day's biggest headlines. Sign up today.

The survey was conducted from late June to early August — prior to Hurricane Ida’s landfall.

Of Democrats, 71% want more action on climate change while only 13% of Republicans want the same. Seventy-six percent of Democrats said climate change is an important issue to them compared to only 17% of Republicans. The parish’s youngest residents that were surveyed placed the highest emphasis on the issue, with 86% of people between the ages of 18 to 29 calling climate change important or somewhat important to them.

In total, 55% of the 549 East Baton Rouge Parish residents surveyed said climate change is an important issue to them.

The vast majority of studies, scientific organizations and climate scientists agree that the world is warming, mainly due to rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The increase in temperature is largely driven by human activity such as deforestation, the raising of livestock and the burning of coal, oil and natural gas.

Despite the divide over the importance of climate change, a majority of residents from either end of the ideological spectrum voiced support for shifting tax incentives to encourage job growth in the renewable energy sector and reducing greenhouse gases by improving bike, walk and mass transit options. Seventy-three percent of residents said they support shifting tax incentives, and 77% of residents said they support improving alternatives to automobile transportation.

There was also broad support for the state and federal government to fund the creation of a passenger rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

More than half the respondents also said they would likely buy an electric vehicle in the next 10 years, including 84% of 18- to 29-year-olds. The parish’s poorest residents, those who reported making under $25,000, were the least likely to say they would buy an electric vehicle this decade.

Prior to Hurricane Ida knocking out power to a vast majority of the parish, residents were split — 48% opposed and 46% in support — over paying an additional fee to reduce power outages. Nearly 60% of those who reported making less than $25,000 said they support the additional fee, the highest of any economic group. Those who reported making $100,000 or more were the least likely to support the fee at 40%.

Support for new spending was also lacking on the topic of child care. A vast majority of respondents said they support money going to low and middle income families for pre-K and child care, although 58% oppose raising property taxes to do so. More than 80% of respondents said they support efforts in Congress to fund access to early child care education, a tenet of the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion infrastructure plan.