Louisiana Survey shows economy and pandemic top residents’ concerns

Third highest concern is education

A line of people in New Orleans seeking free COVID-19 testing wraps around the block in this photo from June 30. A survey conducted by LSU'S Reilly Center finds that COVID-19 and the economy are at the top of Louisiana residents' concerns. (Photo by Jarvis DeBerry / Louisiana Illuminator)

The results of the 2021 Louisiana Survey, released Tuesday, indicate residents are most concerned with the COVID-19 pandemic and the economy, even though more than two-thirds of those surveyed say that financially they’re doing as well or better than they were a year ago.

Researchers in the Public Policy Research Lab (PPRL) at LSU’s Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs polled 781 adult residents from across the state from January 4 to March 1 to find out how Louisianans view their government and its policies and what they say are the state’s most pressing issues.

Findings from the first of five reports indicate that:

  • The crises of the past year haven’t had a big effect on what Louisiana residents think about the direction of the state. About 46% said the state is heading in the wrong direction, and 42% said it is heading in the right direction. In response to the center’s 2019 survey, 43% of respondents said the state was heading in the wrong direction, and 47% said it was heading in the right direction. That change is within the margin of error, according to the researchers. Beliefs about the direction of the state have held relatively steady since 2017.
  • The pandemic has shifted the public’s priorities for what problems the state government should tackle. The economy and the pandemic topped residents’ concerns, replacing education and transportation infrastructure, which topped the list two years ago.
  • Louisiana residents are neither more nor less confident in state government than they were before the pandemic. About 41% said they are either very confident or somewhat confident in state government to address problems effectively. This share is on par with annual results from the Louisiana Survey since 2013.
  • The public has mixed views about the economy. On one hand, 72% of Louisiana residents said the state’s economy is worse than it was a year ago. On the other hand, 54% said their own financial situation is the same as it was a year ago, 17% said it was better, and 29% said it is worse than it was a year ago.

“I think that’s completely in line with reality,” said Jan Moller, executive director of the Louisiana Budget Project, a nonprofit that promotes policies to benefit low-to-moderate-income families. “This has been a completely uneven recession. It’s done the most damage by far to the people that have the least.”

Moller said there has been an entire professional class of people who can work from home who have been simply inconvenienced by the pandemic while entire sectors of the blue collar working class have lost their jobs or been furloughed. This can explain why the 54% who said their own financial situation is the same also said the economy is worse. 

“They haven’t been affected or they may have even been helped economically,” Moller said. “But they might have seen their favorite restaurant close its doors.”

The third most important concern that residents cited was education, while the issues of least concern were auto insurance tort reform and gun issues. Flooding, drainage and natural disasters were also near the bottom of the list, just above gun issues. 

The 2021 Louisiana Survey had a response rate of 4% — the percentage of eligible residential households or personal cell phones in the sample for which an interview is completed.

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