Jindal’s popularity plummets

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Louisiana’s traveling governor, Bobby Jindal, needs to start paying more attention to the problems of his home state — or risk losing more support among Louisiana voters. That’s the conclusion of pollster Bernie Pinsonat of Southern Media and Opinion Research (SMOR), a Baton Rouge-based polling firm that released new numbers on Jindal on Tuesday, Nov. 30.

The latest SMOR survey follows three earlier statewide polls starting in April 2009. Since the first 2009 survey on Jindal and key statewide issues, the governor’s approval rating has steadily declined — and his “disapproval numbers” have increased. The poll included telephone interviews with 600 randomly selected Louisiana voters from Nov. 15-17. The overall margin of error is plus-or-minus 4 percentage points.

The November SMOR poll shows Jindal’s approval rating was 55 percent — a 13-point drop from nearly 68 percent in April 2009. Meanwhile, Jindal’s negative job rating is up to 43 percent from just 30 percent in the spring 2009 survey. That’s a total “swing” of 26 percentage points against Jindal in the past 19 months.

Here’s a closer look at Jindal’s approval/disapproval numbers going back to the 2009 survey:

• Fall 2010 — 55% positive, 43% negative
• Spring 2010 — 61% positive, 37% negative
• Fall 2009 — 64% positive, 33% negative
• Spring 2009 — 68% positive, 30% negative

According to SMOR’s numbers, the biggest fall-off for Jindal came in the past six months — since he released his book, “Leadership and Crisis,” and after his many appearances on network television during the BP Oil Disaster. Jindal’s favorable ranking fell 6 points since last April, and his unfavorable numbers rose 6 points — accounting for nearly half his total swing since 2009.

The latest numbers also reflect voter dissatisfaction with Jindal’s many out-of-state travels promoting himself and his new book. “At this point in time, with all the problems that Louisiana is facing, for him to be spending time on a book tour just doesn’t sit well with voters,” Pinsonat said. “The poll shows that 39 percent of the likely voters think things in Louisiana are getting worse, whereas only 19 percent say things are getting better. There’s a disconnect; it’s not the rosy picture that Jindal’s painting of Louisiana. … I’m not saying he won’t be re-elected, but this definitely should be a wake-up call for him.”

In other findings, the poll shows that Jindal is no longer Louisiana’s most popular statewide elected official. State Treasurer John Kennedy has passed him with a 61 percent approval rating. Attorney General Buddy Caldwell has a 60 percent job approval. Sen. David Vitter has 56 percent approval. Sen. Mary Landrieu has a 54 percent approval rating. Newly elected Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne has a 51 percent approval rating.

The survey also tested the re-elections of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and of Jindal. Landrieu is not up for re-election until the fall of 2014. Jindal must run in October 2011 — slightly more than 10 months from now.

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

Says Pinsonat: “The results demonstrate Jindal’s loss of popularity — 39 percent of respondents saying they would “definitely” vote to re-elect him is not a strong endorsement. Further, Jindal’s prospects for re-election essentially are the same as Sen. Landrieu’s. This does not suggest Jindal cannot be re-elected, but the results indicate many voters are not committed to vote for him.”

Other findings of the survey:

• 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.

• While the state faces deep budget cuts, raising taxes would be very unpopular. Seventy-two percent of respondents said state tax dollars are being spent unwisely, while 62 percent said they think the state’s financial crisis is caused by too much spending.

• More than half of the respondents — 55 percent — said they would rather spare health care than higher education from budget cuts. 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 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.

• Setting up what could be a contentious issue in the 2011 legislative session, a mere 8 percent of respondents agreed that unclassified state employees making more than $175,000 per year is justified.

• 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.

The SMOR survey was funded by Baton Rouge conservative businessman and frequent Republican contributor Lane Grigsby, who has committed to underwriting a Louisiana voter survey biannually. For more information and to view the complete survey results and analysis, visit www.laplaintalk.com.

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