New poll: Voters concerned about crime, insurance. See what else tops the list.

Louisiana voters are increasingly concerned about crime and high insurance rates even as they continue to lament poor education and stagnant job growth, according to a new poll that comes as voters begin to tune in to this year’s governor’s race.

The survey found voters’ top four issues were too much crime and violence in the state, low quality of education, high insurance rates and not enough economic growth and jobs. Bad roads and unsafe bridges came in fifth.

The results help explain why Republicans in the governor’s race are leaning heavily into tough-on-crime rhetoric and taking shots at one another over their records on the issue. When asked how the state should solve crime, voters had a huge partisan and generational divide, with older voters and Republicans calling for the state to get tough on crime and younger voters and Democrats calling for leaders to examine how race, poverty and unemployment play into the state’s crime rate.

The results also represent a shift in the staid top issues in Louisiana elections, which have long centered around education and the economy. While those are still among the top issues, the poll indicates crime and insurance have become more salient for voters this year, amid an insurance crisis and high-profile crime incidents.

“For both crime and insurance, I would have been shocked if they weren’t at the top,” said Steven Procopio, president of the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, which helped pay for the poll. The survey was also commissioned by The Advocate, The Urban League of Louisiana, WWL-TV of New Orleans, KATC-TV of Lafayette, WBRZ-TV of Baton Rouge, KTBS-TV of Shreveport.

Those groups are hosting a statewide televised debate of the top five candidates for governor on Sept. 7.

Procopio said while candidates are promoting tough-on-crime rhetoric, voters need to see specific ideas on how to fix the crime problem, along with policy solutions to the insurance crisis. Hurricanes and other climate risks have helped drive insurance rates to intolerable levels across south Louisiana.

“It’s easy to have the rhetoric. That’s why candidates do it,” Procopio said. “It’s harder to come up with effective plans. That’s across the board whether it’s Democrats or Republicans.”

The poll showed voters were polarized on some of the top issues.

Overall, 51% said they wanted state leaders to get tough on crime and put criminals behind bars longer, while 41% said they preferred if leaders focus on how the systemic issues of race, poverty and unemployment drive crime rates, instead of more incarceration. The split was largely driven by party and age: 62% of White respondents and 74% of Republicans preferred more punitive sentencing.

The same was true of economic issues, where 61% of Republicans and only 27% of Democrats called for improving the state’s business climate and cutting taxes and red tape. Nearly half of Democrats opted for improving quality of life when asked how to improve the economy. Developing a skilled workforce — a big gripe of business owners — came in last.

Previous polls have also shown crime is a key issue among Louisiana voters, and some gubernatorial candidates have made it their top issue. Treasurer John Schroder said police need to start acting more like “badasses on the streets.” Attorney General Jeff Landry, who leads in the poll, released an ad campaign that touted his law enforcement bonafides, saying he “knows what it takes to fight crime.” Both are Republicans.

While violence surged in Louisiana following the pandemic, overall crime has trended downward in Louisiana over the past decade. Murders are down about 22% in New Orleans compared to the same point last year, though they are still up compared to three years ago, according to data tracked by analyst Jeff Asher. Baton Rouge is also seeing a decline in murders, and Shreveport murders were up 12% through May compared to 2022, but they were down 28% compared to May 2021.

Tryonne Walker, vice president for policy, strategic partnerships and development at the Urban League of Louisiana, said the organization has seen similar results as the poll in its statewide listening tour. The group advocates for Black communities and marginalized groups in Louisiana.

Walker said the state needs a governor who builds coalitions to solve problems that voters agree plague the state, even if voters are polarized over how to address those issues.

“A lot of those issues are things we heard months ago from African American communities that we engaged,” he said. “Even in areas where there are maybe differences of opinion. … there is general agreement on these things. So much of the poll suggests Louisianans believe in an all-of-the-above approach.”

Here’s a breakdown of the top issues in the poll, which surveyed 800 likely voters by telephone from Aug. 14-19 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.46%. Of those surveyed, 64% were White, 30% were Black and 6% were other:

  • Too much crime and violence: 18%
  • Low quality of education: 16%
  • High insurance rates: 12%
  • Not enough economic growth and jobs: 11%
  • Bad roads and unsafe bridges: 8%
  • Too much poverty: 6%
  • High state and local taxes: 4%
  • Lack of racial equality: 3%
  • Lack of quality/affordable health care options: 2%
  • Harmful risks to the environment: 1%
  • All of them (volunteered) 18%
  • Don’t know (volunteered) 1%

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