By Robert Mann
Despite media reports to the contrary – and claims by the gubernatorial campaign of Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle – it does not appear that the dynamics of Louisiana governor’s race have shifted much, if at all.
That’s the conclusion of a statewide poll conducted in May by respected LSU alumni Verne Kennedy. Kennedy’s firm, Market Research Insight, is conducting a series of private polls this summer and fall for a group of Louisiana business executives. With the permission of the poll’s sponsors, Kennedy gave me the poll, including the internal numbers, or “cross tabs.” (I wrote about this in my current column on NOLA.com | Times-Picayune.
Contrary to Angelle’s claim, the race still appears to be headed toward a runoff between Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter and Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards of Amite.
In the horse-race survey of the four major candidates, Angelle does appear, at first blush, to have surged into third place ahead of Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne. Angelle was at 18 percent (combining his 10 percent with the 8 percent who said they were “leaning” toward him). The combined totals for the candidates (“for” plus “lean”) were: Vitter, 31 (23 + 8); Edwards, 20 (15 + 5); Angelle 18 (10 + 8); and, Dardenne, (8 + 5).
However, Kennedy did what any smart pollster who knows Louisiana politics would do: He redistributed the black vote to reflect longstanding, historical voting patterns. In other words, he recognizes that Edwards is likely to get the vast majority of the state’s black vote (assuming no prominent black candidate enters the race).
In major, contested statewide races for decades, the Democratic candidate has almost always earned more than 90 percent of the black vote. For example, in last year’s U.S. Senate primary, former Sen. Mary Landrieu earned 94 percent of the black vote. There is no reason to expect that Edwards will do any worse than 90 percent of the black vote, which is why Kennedy redistributed those votes.
Keep in mind, this poll was not originally intended for public release. Kennedy’s role is to give his clients the best possible insights into what the numbers mean and their implications for the race. He released the numbers to me hoping to clear up what he believes is a mischaracterization of the poll by the Angelle campaign.
The Ouachita Citizen and Angelle’s campaign reported Kennedy’s numbers before the redistribution. After the black vote is redistributed to reflect reality, the race looks more like this:
In other words, according to Kennedy’s May poll, Angelle was nowhere near overtaking Edwards for a runoff spot with Vitter.
The fact that Kennedy only polled one runoff scenario (Vitter vs. Edwards) also appears to reflect the pollster’s strong belief that neither Dardenne or Angelle will make the runoff. (I have previously reflected on the volatility of Louisiana governor’s races, but for now we will assume that Kennedy’s apparent judgment is sound.)
In the runoff scenario, on first blush, Vitter seems to have a decided advantage over Edwards. Before Kennedy redistributed the black vote, the runoff looked like this:
After the redistribution of black votes, however, the runoff changes significantly:
There a few other questions in this poll worth mentioning.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s approval ratings are dismal. Asked if they were satisfied or dissatisfied “with the job Jindal has done as governor,” 61 percent said they were not satisfied (28 very dissatisfied + 33 dissatisfied). Only 25 percent of those surveyed said they were satisfied with Jindal’s job performance (18 satisfied + 7 very satisfied).
Asked if they thought Louisiana is on the “wrong track” or “right track,” only 16 percent said they believed the state is on the right track (4 strong right track + 12 right track). Fifty-eight percent said the state is on the wrong track (28 strong wrong track + 30 wrong track). Twenty-three percent of respondents said the condition of state has remained “about the same.”
These are dreadful numbers for Jindal and suggest that Louisiana voters are growing more disgusted with his leadership (in his defense, the poll was conducted in the midst of the legislative session when press reports about the state’s disastrous finances were leading the news almost every day).
Still, it surely is safe to say that Jindal is not only among the least popular presidential candidates; he is among the least popular governors in the United States.
Kennedy’s poll also shows that the state’s voters continue to move to the right. The pollster asked, “Regardless of how you are registered to vote, do you think of yourself as a Republican, Democrat or Independent? Do you lean more toward thinking of yourself as an independent Republican or an independent Democrat?”
Democrat, 18 percent
Independent Democrat, 12 percent
Complete Independent, 22 percent
Independent Republican, 19 percent
Republican, 25 percent
Not sure, 3 percent
If we combine the categories, here’s another way of looking at this question:
Republican, 44 percent
Complete Independent, 22 percent
Democrat, 30 percent
Finally, asked, “Are you satisfied with the choices for governor or would you like to see someone new get in the race,” respondents leaned toward wanting more candidates to enter the race.
Satisfied with current candidates, 41 percent
Want someone new, 49 percent
Not sure, 9 percent