Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Louisiana survey

This week's column analyzes the 2006 Louisiana Survey Link to column in Shreveport Times here. Link to survey info here. Column text copied here: "LSU released the 2006 Louisiana Survey last week. It offers the first comprehensive snapshot of public opinion in the state since last year’s devastating hurricane season. According to the survey, the mood of Louisiana has changed in the last 12 months. "For example, just 34 percent of people questioned said they believe the state is moving in the right direction – that’s down from more than 50 percent last year. This is a largely symbolic question gauging the overall sentiment of the people of the state, but it’s no coincidence this response corresponds closely to the governor’s current approval ratings. "There was also an almost 10 percent increase in the belief that Louisiana is growing more corrupt. No doubt reports about state legislators’ sweetheart deals on recovery contracts and Congressman William Jefferson’s current legal problems helped contribute to this discouraging result. For what it’s worth, current legislative efforts to prevent release of many executive branch proceedings probably won’t help raise this number for next year either. "Reading through the survey one gets a sense of what could be called “despondency.” And that impression stems from more than the fact that 59 percent said they felt depressed – although that is plenty disturbing. "Louisiana’s leadership should be concerned about state residents’ palpable lack of faith in state government’s ability to do the job of leading recovery efforts in an honest and cost-effective way -- if at all. Judging by these numbers, it seems Baton Rouge has done little to inspire confidence in the people of the state. "There’s also evidence that despite new problems raised by last year’s hurricanes, residents of Louisiana haven’t lost sight of the state’s chronic problems with education, public health and economic development. Indeed, when asked to choose between spending money on the rebuilding effort or on another high priority issue, people preferred focusing on the other high priority issues. "This should be seen as a reminder that “rebuilding” must be about more than a return to Louisiana’s pre-Katrina status quo because that status-quo was unsustainable as any number of national rankings placing Louisiana in the basement on basic socio-economic and public health indicators had often suggested. "The most disheartening finding in the 2006 Louisiana survey isn’t a finding at all. It doesn’t come from a question posed to respondents and it doesn’t come from a careful spin of the numbers. It comes instead from reading between the lines. In Louisiana today there is not only a lack of confidence in government, but also little apparent hope that conditions will improve any time soon. "These are not conditions conducive to a successful rebuilding effort. And that is depressing indeed. Recall the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all.” "Louisiana can’t afford to lose hope. There’s too much work to be done."