By Devon Sanders, LSU Manship School News Service
BATON ROUGE — A survey released Thursday by Louisiana State University’s Public Policy Research Lab reveals that many Louisianans are disillusioned with state government.
Results of the 2018 Louisiana Survey show that overall, most citizens have little confidence in Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Legislature to work past a partisan divide. They also do not believe that the government can address the state’s most important issues, and they do not trust state government in general.
The survey, a project of the Manship School’s Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs, was conducted between January 26 and March 3, 2018. During this time, the Legislature was in the midst of a special session in an attempt to solve the $994 million fiscal cliff. The special session collapsed March 5 with no progress in solving the projected shortfall.
This was the fifth special session called since 2016 to deal with fiscal problems in the state. In all five sessions, legislators were unable to come to more than temporary agreements on how to solve Louisiana’s budget crisis.
“In my short five years here—and they’ve been pretty miserable—I’ve learned the Legislature won’t do anything it doesn’t have to do,” Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Baton Rouge, said during the most recent special session.
The lack of long-term fiscal solutions led to a proposed “Doomsday” budget by the governor, in which the state would face massive cuts in higher education and healthcare if revenue-raising measures are not generated by June.
“What we see this year with the survey is that people overall feel more negatively about the state of Louisiana and are frustrated with the lack of compromise and problem-solving in the Capitol,” Michael Henderson, director of the Public Policy Research Lab, said.
The partisan division of the state is something with which Louisianans are becoming increasingly concerned. According to the survey, 79 percent of respondents believe that both Republicans and Democrats will bicker and oppose each other even if it keeps them from solving the state’s problems, and only 18 percent believe that Republicans and Democrats will work together on solutions for Louisiana. Seventy-three percent believe the state is more politically divided than in the past.
Those surveyed also lack trust in state government. Sixty-one percent feel “not very” or “not at all” confident in the government’s ability to address the state’s most important problems, and 78 percent trust state government only “some of the time” or “never.”
Only 3 percent of respondents said they could trust the state “just about always.”
Fifty percent of the surveyed think that the state is headed in the wrong direction. This is an increase from about 40 percent a year ago.
While the Legislature has come in for significant criticism for its failure in the special session, the survey also carried some possibly disconcerting news for Edwards, the only Democratic governor in the Deep South, who is up for re-election next year.
A year ago, 47 percent of Democrats thought that the state was heading in the right direction, while 40 percent of Democrats thought it was not. Now, Democratic opinion tilts heavily in a negative direction, with 36 percent of Democrats thinking the state is heading the right way and 53 percent concerned that it is not.
The findings come from the first of six reports from the Louisiana Survey, aimed at revealing how Louisianans view state government and its policies. The Louisiana Survey has been conducted since 2003, tracking public opinion on issues that the state faces.
“The Louisiana Survey provides a pulse on how Louisiana’s citizens feel about where we are as a state and where they’d like to see the state go—something that can help to inform Louisiana’s leaders as they make important decisions about our future,” said Jerry Ceppos, the Manship School’s dean.