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President Donald Trump speaks during a visit to the Sempra Energy LNG export facility on Tuesday, May 14, 2019, in Hackberry, Louisiana.

A clear majority of Louisiana voters don’t want Donald Trump to win a second term as president, an independent poll shows.

The survey by pollster Verne Kennedy also shows that as many of the 600 likely voters in Louisiana polled in April approved of Trump’s performance as disapprove of it, which is a further reflection of the president’s problems in a state where he won easily in 2016 with 58% of the vote over Hillary Clinton, the Democrat.

There’s more bad news for Trump in Kennedy’s poll: Louisiana voters by 49% to 41% opposed the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border that the president wants to build.

Trump’s weaker-than-expected poll results will likely have consequences for this year’s governor’s race because many Republicans have been saying a late-in-the-campaign endorsement from the president could deliver the decisive blow for a conservative Republican to knock off Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat.

If the poll numbers hold up, Trump might be too weak in advance of the Oct. 12 primary to make a difference for either of Edwards’ Republican challengers, U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham from Alto in northeast Louisiana or Eddie Rispone, an electrical contractor from Baton Rouge.

In Kennedy’s poll, Edwards led with 46%, followed by Abraham with 17% and Rispone with 5%. But once Kennedy reallocated black voters to their historical 90%-plus vote for the Democratic candidate, Edwards would have led with as much as 58% of those polled.

“Edwards is so strong because he’s a well-known Democrat who is pro-life, pro-Christian and pro-gun,” Kennedy said.

The poll, provided to The Advocate this week by Kennedy, shows that those surveyed by a 54-37% margin favor electing someone other than Trump as president. The poll did not ask whether these voters favored another Republican or a Democrat.

Only 47% of voters polled approved of Trump’s performance while 46% disapproved.

Nationally, Trump averages a 45% approval rating.

On election day in 2016, Trump outperformed his national vote percentage of 46% by 12 percentage points in Louisiana.

Kennedy said the margin between Trump’s approval rating in Kennedy’s survey compared to the president's approval rating nationally now might indicate that some Trump voters did not want to disclose their support for him to a stranger over the phone.

The poll was a snapshot in time and voter attitudes will certainly change one way or another in the presidential and gubernatorial races.

Kennedy’s poll contains some bad news for Edwards: 45% of voters polled said Louisiana is on the wrong track and getting worse while 26% said the state is on the right track and getting better, while 25% said it has been about the same.

Kennedy and his Florida-based firm, Market Research Insight, have been asking the right/wrong track question in Louisiana since 1980, and he said he has never seen voters answer it so pessimistically.


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“No group in Louisiana can be considered optimistic,” Kennedy said.

The poll did not attempt to delve into voters’ dissatisfaction.

One possible reason: non-farm employment from January 2016, when Edwards took office, to April this year declined slightly from 1,986,800 to 1,983,400.

During Edwards’ tenure, oil prices, the state’s economic driver, have been lower than during most of the term of his predecessor, Gov. Bobby Jindal.

The poll contained plenty of good news for Edwards. Voters polled gave him a favorable rating by a strong 52%-30% margin. The governor polled strongest among black women, Kennedy said, which is common for Democratic candidates.

In the poll, Edwards received 41% support from the Evangelical voters and 40% of the white voters — both strong marks for a Democrat in Louisiana, Kennedy said. Traditionally, a Democrat seeking statewide office wins the race if he or she receives at least 33% of the white vote.

Head-to-head, Edwards led Abraham in the poll by 45% to 28% and Rispone by 47% to 23%, without Kennedy re-allocating the black vote.

Kennedy found that Abraham and Rispone remain unknown to many Louisiana voters. Only 35 percent of the voters polled had an opinion of Abraham, with 23% favorable and 12% unfavorable. Only 25 percent knew enough of Rispone to opine on him, with 14% favorable and 11% unfavorable.

Rispone, who has never run for office before, has yet to begin an advertising blitz on TV to introduce himself to voters. He has written a $10 million check for his campaign to match the money Edwards had in his campaign bank account as of April 15, when the last campaign finance reports were due. Abraham had only $1 million in his account.

Voter attitudes toward U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, the second ranking House Republican, who recovered heroically from an assassin’s bullet, also were not strongly held, according to Kennedy’s survey. Scalise enjoyed a 26%-14% favorable to unfavorable rating, but 59% said they didn’t know of Scalise or had no opinion of him. Republican insiders — mostly notably Trump — have repeatedly asked Scalise to run for governor in the belief he could defeat Edwards.

The poll surveyed 600 active voters statewide and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

Kennedy has been polling Louisiana governor’s races every four years since 1991 for a rotating group of business leaders. John Georges, the owner of The Advocate, is a member of the group.

Kennedy has a strong record but, like any pollster, doesn’t always get it right.

In the 2015 governor’s race, Kennedy forecast the weakness of the perceived front-runner, then-U.S. Sen. David Vitter, a Republican from Metairie. Asked to meet with the Vitter campaign team in August, Kennedy told them Vitter ought to consider not even qualifying for the election. Vitter’s campaign manager savaged Kennedy in an effort to discredit him. But Vitter ended up losing to Edwards by a 56%-44% margin.

Kennedy was less precise in advance of the 2017 New Orleans mayor’s race. In mid-September, four weeks before the election, he had attorney Michael Bagneris tied with then-Civil District Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet with 30% apiece and then-City Council member LaToya Cantrell with 23%. Cantrell ended up leading the Oct. 14 primary with 32%, trailed by Charbonnet with 25% and Bagneris with 15%.


Email Tyler Bridges at tbridges@theadvocate.com.