…it also says it’s time to shut down the 2016 presidential run for now. A governor with a 38 percent approval rating is in no position to pursue national ambitions.
This is a messaging problem. It’s also an optics problem. And it’s a party-building problem.
The results from Southern Media and Opinion Research’s 2013 spring survey…
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.
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.
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.
For most of the issues polled, the public’s dissatisfaction can be directly attributed to a failure on Jindal’s part to (1) unify the conservative side of the aisle, and (2) control the state’s political narrative.
That isn’t strictly speaking Jindal’s fault. He’s getting butchered daily by the Advocate and the Times-Picayune, both of which have become more and more left-wing as the governor’s tenure has worn on. And the agitation by various Hard Left groups has become an increasing problem for the governor – the Louisiana Budget Project, which is a Soros-funded affiliate of a left-wing redistributionist policy network, puts out advocacy of a dubious nature in a machine-gun fashion which is parroted repeatedly by the state’s media outlets, and now we have organizations like PICO and IAF dragooning preachers into involvement in tax policy without anyone other than this site calling that astroturfing operation for what it is.
But it’s worse than that, because this isn’t just a matter of Democrats clobbering the governor with the media’s assistance. He has had a persistent fight with a large segment of Louisiana’s Republican delegation, particularly in the House, over the state’s budget.
We’ve been warning for a long time – even in national publications – that the inability to get a consensus among Republicans on the budget and the inability to get people of similar ideological orientation to be on the same page was a real problem for Jindal. That a failure to come up with an identifiable, transparent and defensible strategy on Louisiana’s government spending would be a cancer on his political record and something that would preclude his star from rising.
Well, that star is at 38 percent. It’s struggling to keep above the horizon at this point. And the biggest problem is that Jindal simply doesn’t have the state’s conservatives behind him in the numbers he needs.
He’s also struggled to overcome this perception that he’s always gone. That Jindal’s traipsing across the country reflects an insincerity in his concern for the people of the state. That’s an optical problem, and optics are enormous in America these days. Understand that Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama on just about every issue in last year’s presidential campaign but lost because 80 percent of the public said they think Obama cares more about them than Romney does, and you’ll recognize that these days you will not be successful in politics unless you can convince the voters you give a damn about them.
Is it a valid concern that Jindal is away from the state often? Of course not. He has a cell phone and a laptop or tablet computer just like every other busy professional in the country; nothing happens in the state Jindal isn’t capable of being on top of whether he’s off speaking in Tallahassee, New York or Nome.
But the perception is that he’s not doing his job. And he has done very little to counter that perception.
When that sinkhole in Assumption Parish – are we the first to call it the Cornehole? – opened up and it was months before Jindal made a trip out there, people thought he didn’t care. Ultimately Jindal appears to have been effective in pushing Texas Brine to start buying out the homeowners around the sinkhole, but he still bore a cost because his detractors got away with weeks and months of “Where’s Jindal?” For somebody whose hurricane response has been better than any other governor we’ve seen to look so completely out of touch on something a lot easier than a hurricane just doesn’t compute in any universe other than the one where Jindal is too busy running for president to care about his people – so that’s the perception he suffers from and it drags down his popularity.
And then there’s the income tax plan.
The reason the voters aren’t in favor of Jindal’s plan is that it’s too complicated and the information on it changes daily. The Governor would have been a lot better served by saying in very broad terms that Louisiana can’t afford to have a state income tax when Texas doesn’t have one, that nobody gives the state credit for a favorable tax climate because to access that climate you have to rummage through the hundreds of exemptions to find some goodies on that list which apply to you, which most normal people lack the resources and the will to do, and that our problem will only get worse after Kansas and North Carolina, and probably a few other states as well, dump their income taxes.
And then say “I want to get rid of the state income tax, and I will listen to any and all proposals the legislators may have for how to either make up the revenue through sales taxes or whatever OR to fundamentally downsize state government to account for the revenues we’ll have when the income tax is gone.”
In other words, go big or go home.
What’s the worst thing that has happened to the tax plan in the last week? The announcement that Louisiana’s state sales tax wouldn’t be going from 5.88 percent but to 6.25 percent. That, coupled with LABI’s opposition to it on the basis that if it resulted in a tax increase on the business community they were taking their ball and going home, has meant that the Governor’s chief priority item in the upcoming session is on life support before the bill even gets into committee.
He’s getting picked to death on details, and an idea which is quite popular – dumping the income tax which chases our jobs, and our friends and relatives, to Texas – is in deep trouble thanks to that.
And conservatives who have dreamed about killing the income tax for decades are now divided over whether to support it this time. Particularly now that they’re hearing 6.25 percent.
It’s a mess. It’s a bad message. And a re-elected governor without any organized political opposition shouldn’t be in this position.