Monday, March 23, 2015

The Xanax State

The annual LSU public policy research opinion survey is out. It might be worth your time to look through seeing as how this is a big election year and all.  Although a lot of the findings are kind of bland. Or, at least, they don't indicate any particularly eye-popping trend.

If anything, they tell us that Louisiana residents are pretty blase about the state's numerous problems.

 For example, this is from NOLA.com's summary.
Louisiana residents are relatively split on whether the state is headed in the right direction, according to LSU's annual survey of Louisiana citizens.

About 44 percent of people contacted by LSU thought Louisiana was on the right path. Around 45 percent thought the state was headed in the wrong direction, according to the recent Louisiana survey.

Overall, the number of people who think Louisiana is headed in the right direction has grown over the last two years. In 2014, more people thought Louisiana was headed in the wrong direction, than in the right direction. But Louisiana residents appear more optimistic about the state this year.
Are we doing ok?  Louisiana residents are decidedly meh about it.

The rest of the survey goes on like that. There are slight, predictable differential opinions about the way things are going according to party.  There are indistinguishable, difficult to interpret changes in degrees of "optimism" and "confidence" over a year ago.  Here's one that looks to me like people may be beginning to sense the light at the end of the Jindal.


Beyond that, the survey appears to indicate that respondents, who can barely make up their minds as to whether Louisiana is on the "right or wrong track," are more or less unbothered by the state of some of our most crucial issues.

For example, here is a list of issues respondents say they are concerned about.


I get that "environment" is kind of a nebulous term with certain hippie-dippie connotations. But, in Louisiana... particularly in South Louisiana, our most pressing existential dilemmas are environmental issues.  Strange that it would be so low a priority.

"Education" is another vague term, but a more inclusive one in terms of public opinion. It serves as a replacement for actual thought about whatever the issue might be. It's also a placeholder for people who either have no solid opinions on specific issues.. or people who choose not to share them.  Everybody likes to say "education" is important even if they don't know why you're asking them about it. 

Which is how we can get a result like this where "education" leads the list of concerns in a state whose public universities are facing a severe budget crisis.  This morning LSU President King Alexander told the Baton Rouge Press Club that the Governor's proposed cuts are so severe that  the university would, "have to furlough everybody for the entire year,” in order to meet the budget.

And, yet, the "optimistic" respondents to the survey are pretty pleased with higher ed in Louisiana. They give our underfunded colleges and universities mostly "As" and "Bs."

Letter Grades

We hit something of a milestone late last year when the state unemployment rate exceeded the national rate for the first time since before the recession. We also barely noticed.

Business Optimism

The survey writers also point to slight regional discrepancies in "optimism."
Perceptions of economic trends partly reflect the conditions residents face in different parts of the state. For example, residents of the Baton Rouge area tend to take the most optimistic view of state business conditions (see Figure 1.8). Residents of southwest Louisiana – with a regional economy especially sensitive to the rise and fall of oil prices– have far more mixed assessments. 
But, okay. Look at the chart they're talking about. Even "oil sensitive" Southwest Louisiana is pretty evenly split between better or worse with "meh" still  holding a plurality.

Most improvement

They seem pretty happy in Baton Rouge, though.  Looking at that, you'd never guess there was a whole secession movement afoot there

So, hey, Heckuva Job, Louisiana. The southern half of the state is melting into the ocean but we've barely noticed. Our one-horse petrochemical driven economy is stalling but we're pretty cool with it.  We really care about "education."  And we really like our universities. Bobby Jindal is about to sell them all  off for campaign yard signs but our "confidence" and "optimism" are on the rise.  Louisiana must be the Xanax State.

I'm not sure what this means for the election this year.  I had David Vitter as the odds-on favorite but it turns out he might be a little too spicy for our tastes. 

1 comment:

Nolaresident said...

That's a pretty small sample size (900 or so) and the survey was conducted fairly early in the year. Maybe everyone is in a holding pattern just waiting for bobby to leave.