Cuts to higher education and health care, along with his controversial tax swap proposal, continue to exact drag on Gov. Bobby Jindal’s approval rating among Louisiana voters. A new poll by Southern Media Opinion & Research finds the governor’s approval rating at 38 percent, a considerable plunge from the 51 percent approval rating in a SMOR poll just six months ago.

Jindal’s popularity in the SMOR poll jibes closely with a similar poll conducted in mid February by Public Policy Polling, which found the governor with a 37 percent approval rating.

Here’s the SMOR release announcing the results of the poll, which covered a range of topics:
BATON ROUGE, La. – Lingering dissatisfaction over higher education and budget cuts, along with pessimism over the state’s direction contributed to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s declining popularity in Southern Media Opinion & Research Inc.’s latest statewide survey.

The governor received a 38 percent approval rating in the spring 2013 survey, compared to 51 percent last October. A number of issues contributed to Jindal’s low performance, including state cuts to higher education and health care, plans to privatize the charity hospital system and the governor’s proposed state tax overhaul.

Gov. Jindal’s proposed tax reform plan was particularly unpopular. Sixty-three percent opposed the plan to abolish personal and corporate income taxes and raise state sales taxes, while only 27 percent supported it.

Developed and conducted by Southern Opinion & Media Research, the poll was based on telephone interviews conducted March 18-20 with 600 randomly selected Louisiana voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points at a 95 percent level of confidence.

Among the poll’s other findings:

The prospect of more state budget cuts was unpopular with 60 percent of respondents saying the budget has been cut enough compared to 33 percent who supported further reductions. Additional cuts in health care and higher education were especially unpopular with opposition to each reaching almost 80 percent.

Forty-seven percent of respondents said state budget cuts have had a negative impact on them or their families. This is likely the result of Louisiana’s large number of low-income families, cuts to state employee rolls and budget cuts to hospitals and higher education.

With lawmakers set to debate term limits for statewide elected officials this year, the proposal appears to be popular among voters. Eighty-three percent of respondents supported limiting terms for statewide elected officials.

While U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu has sparred publicly with Jindal over his refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, respondents were virtually split. Forty-nine percent agreed with Landrieu that Jindal’s decision was politically motivated, compared to 46 percent who agreed with Jindal’s claim the expansion would be too expensive for the state.

While Landrieu has an approval rating of 56 percent, only 12 percent of respondents gave her an “excellent” rating. Meanwhile, the number who said they would “definitely” vote for Landrieu was nearly identical to those who said they would definitely vote for someone else – 37 percent and 34 percent, respectively.

This survey was funded by Lane Grigsby in an effort to share the thoughts of the electorate with Louisiana elected officials. Grigsby has committed to underwriting a Louisiana voter survey biannually. For more information and to view the complete survey results, visit www.laplaintalk.com.

Southern Media & Opinion Research
Spring 2013 Survey Analysis

Jindal’s popularity continues falling
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s popularity fell dramatically in the spring 2013 survey. Thirty-eight percent of respondents rated his job performance favorably, while 60 percent disapproved. This represents a stunning reversal for Jindal who, only a few years ago, was considered one of the country’s most popular governors.

Cuts to health care and higher education have left respondents unhappy with the governor. The survey shows his tax swap plan is unpopular and contributing to his sagging popularity as well. A third of Republicans gave Jindal a negative job rating, while 78 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents did. His approval ratings have fallen precipitously since March 2012, when SMOR found his positive rating was 61 percent and negative rating was 36 percent.

Growing pessimism among respondents
The survey shows widespread pessimism concerning the state’s direction. Forty-eight percent of respondents said conditions are getting worse compared to 20 percent who said they’re getting better and 30 percent who said they’re about the same.

Dissatisfaction over budget cuts
Sixty percent of respondents said the state budget has been cut enough. For the last four years, Louisiana has faced large deficits and reduced spending on higher education and health care. This year is likely to be the same with the state facing another major gap. Previous cuts to higher education, health care and the charity hospital system have made further budget reductions increasingly unpopular, especially with the state’s large percentage of low-income voters.

Tax swap plan unpopular
The poll found 63 percent of respondents opposed Jindal’s tax swap proposal. Even among Republicans, slightly less than half said they supported the plan to eliminate state income taxes and increase sales taxes. The proposal was even less popular among Democrats and independents. A mere 9 percent of Democrats and 29 percent of independents favored the idea.

Cuts impacting families
Forty-seven percent of respondents said state budget cuts have had a negative impact on them or their families. This is likely the result of Louisiana’s large number of low-income families, cuts to state employee rolls and budget cuts to hospitals and higher education.

Public health care a liability for Jindal
When asked about public education, higher education and highways and roads, a majority of respondents in each case said Louisiana had made little or no progress. Dissatisfaction was especially apparent with public health care – 75 percent of respondents found little or no progress. Seventy-eight percent opposed additional cuts to the state healthcare system.

Privatizing public hospitals
Privatizing state-run public hospitals was unpopular with most respondents, especially those with lower incomes. Overall, 60 percent of respondents opposed privatization, while 32 percent supported it. Wealthier respondents were evenly split.

Term limits for statewide elected officials
Lawmakers are set this year to debate term limits for statewide elected officials, and the proposal appears to be popular among constituents. The survey found 83 percent of respondents supported limiting terms for statewide elected officials.

Jindal’s travels
In previous surveys, attitudes were split evenly over Jindal’s travel to other states. In the latest survey, respondents who approve of the travel dropped to 40 percent with Republicans being the only group across all demographics to approve by more than 50 percent.

Mary Landrieu reelection bid
The survey shows that U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu remains popular with an approval rating of 56 percent, but she could be vulnerable in a reelection bid next year. Only 12 percent of respondents gave Landrieu an “excellent” rating. Meanwhile, 37 percent said they would definitely vote for her – nearly identical to the 34 percent who said they would definitely vote for someone. Fifty-six percent of respondents, including 74 percent of whites, said they were less likely to vote for Landrieu because of her support for President Obama’s health care reform.

President Obama
The survey shows President Obama’s popularity in Louisiana remains largely divided along racial lines. Almost three fourths of white respondents rated the president’s job performance as negative, while 90 percent of black respondents approved. Overall, 43 percent approved of the president’s job performance compared to 56 percent who do not, which is slightly better than Jindal’s rating.

Affordable Care Act
Gov. Jindal has refused to take part in a Medicaid expansion available under the new health care reform law, claiming it would cost too much money. Sen. Landrieu says the governor is putting his political ambitions ahead of the state’s health and economic interests.

When respondents were asked whom they agreed with more, Landrieu had a slight edge over Jindal – 49 percent to 46 percent, but neither has gained a substantial edge among voters. Landrieu’s popularity dropped from earlier surveys, while Jindal’s decision to forego the Medicaid expansion is unpopular as well.

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