Bernie Pinsonat of Southern Media and Opinion Research is out with his fall approval numbers on Gov. Bobby Jindal, and it’s clear that Louisiana’s chief executive hasn’t done a good job bolstering his public support with his actions of late.
Jindal’s activity in hitting the campaign trail for Republican candidates outside Louisiana coupled with his current book tour have generated a narrative among many in the state’s chattering classes that he’s too busy burnishing national credentials to care about the state. Fair or not, that narrative is beginning to take its toll.
Pinsonat’s numbers indicate a significant drop in Jindal’s support, as his approval rating has plummeted from 68 percent in April 2009 to 55 percent at present. His negatives have risen from 30 percent to 43 percent in that time frame.
Worse, Jindal has experienced a six-point drop – from 61-37 in April of this year to 55-43 at present – in the last six months. That indicates slippage of the sort which could well make the governor ripe for a major Democrat challege if it isn’t addressed.
Jindal, in fact, has now fallen to fourth place among Louisiana’s statewide officials in approval. Treasurer John Kennedy, who has been touring the state touting a plan to cut $1.6 billion from Louisiana’s budget while Jindal has been promoting his book, is now viewed favorably by 61 percent of the public. Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, a Democrat, sits at 60 percent – indicating that if you can stay completely out of the headlines people will consider that a sign of competence. And recently re-elected Sen. David Vitter is now at 56 percent approval – which would indicate that it may have been a mistake for Jindal to have neglected to endorse Vitter’s re-election.
Jindal remains more popular than Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu (54 percent) and new Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne (51 percent), but only slightly. In comparison to Landrieu, SMOR finds the Governor’s election prospects are quite similar:
When respondents were asked if they would vote for Landrieu:
· 36 percent said they would definitely vote to re-elect her.
· 22 percent said they would consider someone else.
· 40 percent said they would definitely vote for someone else
· 2 percent said they didn’t know or would or wouldn’t respond
When asked if they would vote for Jindal:
· 39 percent said they would definitely vote to re-elect him.
· 23 percent said they would consider someone else.
· 35 percent said they would definitely vote for someone else
· 3 percent said they didn’t know or would or wouldn’t respond
It’s widely thought that Landrieu is extremely vulnerable to a Republican challenge when her term expires in 2014. There is speculation, in fact, that Jindal might be the challenger. Pinsonat’s numbers indicate he has quite a bit of work to do before mounting a campaign to dislodge another statewide incumbent.
More items from SMOR’s release indicate that Jindal might be able to turn his slide around by taking a harder line on government spending – and making a major show of it in the process as Kennedy has done…
Almost half – 46 percent – of all respondents disapproved of Jindal’s travel to other states. Among Republicans, 28 percent disapproved of the travel while 28 percent also said they would consider voting for someone other than Jindal.
As the governor touts his accomplishments on a national stage, survey results indicate many Louisiana residents are unhappy with the conditions of roads, elementary and secondary education, higher education, management of state government, lack of job opportunities and public health care.
A significant number of respondents – 39 percent – said conditions in Louisiana were getting worse, while 19 percent said conditions were getting better. Jindal’s out-of-state traveling is affecting his popularity back home, especially when so many respondents have a negative outlook toward the most vital functions of state government.
State Treasurer Kennedy has a solid job performance rating of 61 percent and a relatively low negative rating at 19 percent. His advocacy for reducing the number of state employees was popular among respondents. Nineteen percent of respondents said they didn’t know enough about him to rate his job performance.
Meanwhile, a mere 8 percent of respondents said they believe an unclassified political appointee or state executive making more than $175,000 per year is justified. Twenty-four percent said such compensation is unjustified, while 64 percent said a salary of more than $175,000 for such employees was outrageous. The results portend what could be a contentious issue in the 2011 legislative session.
Seventy-two percent of respondents said they did not believe their tax dollars are being spent wisely. This indicates difficulty for advocates of higher taxes to avoid deep cuts to programs. Sixty-two percent of respondents said they think the state’s financial crisis is caused by too much spending, while 32 percent said they believe the state does not have enough revenue.
Respondents also do not favor balancing the state budget by raising income or sales taxes, or by increasing taxes on businesses. About two thirds said they favor raising taxes on cigarettes.
Sixty percent of respondents, particularly Republicans, opposed raising gasoline taxes to fund new highway construction. According to the results, many believe Louisiana highways are bad and that the state is wasting the taxes they already pay. Also, 68 percent consider suspending tax exemptions a tax increase.
A state senator’s recent proposal to offset higher-education budget deficits by raising state income taxes for middle- and upper- income households was unpopular with respondents with 64 percent opposed.
When asked which sector – health care or higher education – respondents preferred to protect from budget cuts, 55 percent favored protecting health care while 28 percent favored higher education.
Democrats want health care protected more than higher education three to one, and Republicans are evenly split.
Fifty-eight percent of respondents agreed with Treasurer Kennedy that Louisiana has too many state employees.
Sixty percent of respondents favor keeping the so-called Bush tax cuts in place, while 31 percent want those cuts to expire for people making more than $250,000 per year. This is not surprising in light of how 60 percent of all respondents want the state budget cut without raising taxes.