Baton Rouge stock

Advocate file photo of the Mississippi River Bridge in Baton Rouge

Polling data conducted for a foundation that aims to improve the quality of life in and around East Baton Rouge show that only 8% of area parents want their children to stay in the parish when they are adults, with many saying they don't believe there are enough job opportunities to make it worth sticking around.

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation released its annual City Stats data Tuesday. It developed questions for people across the parish and analyzed data trends to find where people generally stand on local and national issues. The LSU Public Policy Research Lab ⁠— which BRAF commissions to conduct the polls ⁠— surveyed 504 residents in the parish in late June.

Forty-five percent of those surveyed said they preferred their children settle outside of the parish, while 44% said it didn’t matter to them. 

Bill Balhoff, the foundation's chairman, said similar thoughts were shared by college students who took part in focus groups.

"A majority who grew up in the parish wanted to stay here, but nonetheless planned to leave for a career elsewhere," he wrote in a foreword to the study. "... The kinds of jobs that are in demand are to be found elsewhere. The students who graduate from LSU and Southern take their TOPS-funded degrees and move to other states to earn a living — and pay taxes. We underwrite their educations but see little return in the local economy."

As in previous annual surveys, this year’s polling continued to find dissatisfaction with the rate of progress and change within Baton Rouge, and a record 63% said they hold little if any ability to sway their political leaders.

Sixty-nine percent of residents said the pace of progress in the parish is too slow, an improvement from 72% last year, though that number was a record high. Forty-five percent said the parish was moving in the wrong direction and 38% said it was moving in the right direction. 

The majority of those who said the parish was moving in the wrong direction identified as conservative or very conservative and lived in the southern or southeastern portions of East Baton Rouge Parish, the same area that voted Saturday to incorporate as the city of St. George.

Pollsters conducted live interviews with 504 residents of East Baton Rouge, 32% via landline and 68% via cellphone. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points. Results were weighted by age, race and gender to more closely resemble the demographic breakdowns of the most recently available census data.

The foundation has conducted surveys since 2008.

"The project is a road map for community improvement, telling residents where we are, how far we’ve come and where we need to go as a parish," it says.

The results showed significant concern over environmental issues. Sixty-eight percent of those surveyed agreed that the planet is in a period of global warming, with 46% saying warming is an “extremely important” or “very important” issue to them. Only 13% said the issue is not at all important.

Earlier this year, the city-parish's director of transportation and drainage Fred Raiford said bad weather related to a warming planet had exacerbated issues with the region’s drainage systems. "Climate change is here," Raiford said.

Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed said global warming is harming Louisiana, a slight increase from last year. The report also found that the wealthier people are, the less important of an issue global warming is for them.

On solutions to climate change, 72% said they wanted the government to do more to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Sixty percent of those surveyed supported the idea of a ban on single-use plastic bags, earning the greatest support ⁠— 75% approval ⁠— among 18- to 29-year-olds. Among Republicans polled, more favored the idea of a ban than opposed it.

Nearly every resident polled said they’re in favor of alternatives to jail for people who are convicted of nonviolent offenses, and 66% were against requiring cash bonds for releasing people charged with nonviolent, non-sex-related crimes.

That follows legislation approved in 2017 that allowed sentences to be shortened more rapidly for nonviolent, non-sex-crime offenders who receive credit for good behavior — cutting the mandatory time served from 40% of their original sentences to 35%.

The survey found the average commuting time has increased; last year voters approved a nearly $1 billion MovEBR infrastructure enhancement and traffic mitigation plan.

Thirty-one percent of those polled said they used Uber or Lyft in the past year, and 14% of those age 18 to 29 said they used one of the ride-sharing services at least once a week.

Email Blake Paterson at bpaterson@theadvocate.com and follow him on Twitter @blakepater