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Mayor Landrieu loses favor with white residents, survey finds

11th April 2016   ·   0 Comments

A new survey conducted by the University of New Orleans found that New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s popularity has plummeted among the city’s white residents. The survey, which also measured residents’ thoughts about efforts to remove four Confederate-era monuments from public spaces in New Orleans, was released just over three months after the New Orleans City Council voted to remove the monuments, touching off a firestorm of legal challenges and a series of death threats aimed at a contractor assigned to the removal project.

Landrieu, the city’s first white mayor in three decades, saw his approval rating among white residents drop from 78 percent in 2013 to 49 percent in 2016, while his approval rating among Black residents rose from 60 percent in 2013 to 68 percent in 2016.

Fifty percent of the survey’s respondents in this majority-Black city said the monuments should be removed from public spaces while 31 percent disagreed and 19 percent said they didn’t have an opinion on the issue.

“When we controlled for the race of the respondent we found a strong relationship between opinion on the monuments and Landrieu approval among whites,” the UNO researchers explained.

“In other words, among whites, approval of the mayor is largely a function of their opinions on the monument removal. For instance, among whites who support removing the monuments 67 percent approve of the mayor while 23 percent disapprove of him. Conversely, of those whites who oppose the removal 36 percent express approval of the mayor while 57 percent say they disapprove of him.”

WWL News reported that the survey’s results reflected a mixed bag of responses from New Orleans residents and widespread satisfaction with the quality of life among Jefferson Parish residents.

Sixty-six percent of New Orleans residents said they were satisfied with the quality of life in their city, an eight percent drop from 2013. That is a sharp contrast with Jefferson Parish where 94 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with the quality of life.

“This difference is what we would expect when comparing a lower-income city with a more middle-income suburb,” the UNO researchers wrote.

Between 1986 and 2004, about 60 percent said they were satisfied with the quality of life in New Orleans, before dropping to 55 percent from 2006 to 2009.

Despite the myriad of challenges and issues associated with living in post-Katrina New Orleans, locals and visitors often agree that the Crescent City is still a great place to live. But that doesn’t mean residents aren’t striving to make life better in New Orleans.

“In the four surveys conducted since then, the average is 70 percent. Although the level of life satisfaction in Orleans is down from 2013, it appears that people are relatively optimistic about life in the city,” UNO researchers wrote.

But only 32 percent of New Orleanians surveyed said the city has become a better place to live — a 15 percent drop from 2013. And 25 percent believe that things have gotten worse — a five percent increase.

Forty-two percent of Jefferson Parish residents said the parish has become a better place to live. And one in five of those surveyed said things have gotten worse.

Despite the joie de vivre and civic pride New Orleanians show during annual events and festivals, respondents were not particularly optimistic about the future. Only 46 percent said they thought the city would be better in the next five years — a decline of eight percent from 2013.

“That number is down to 46 percent in our latest survey, the lowest percentage since 2004 when 44 percent said the city will become a better place to live,” the researchers wrote.

In Jefferson Parish, 50 percent of respondents thought the parish would become a better place in the next five years — an increase of four percent.

In both Orleans and Jefferson parishes, crime was cited as the biggest problem, 49 percent in Orleans and 28 percent in Jefferson, falling from 62 percent in New Orleans and increasing from 26 percent in Jefferson.

“Despite the recent reduction in citing crime as the city’s biggest problem, it continues to be the dominant issue in the city,” UNO researchers wrote.

Next to crime, education was the next biggest problem identified — at seven percent. “Because the concern about crime is so dominant in Orleans, other problems tend to get crowded out,” the researchers wrote.

New Orleans respondents said they believe that crime is increasing from 50 in 2013 to 53 percent. “Regardless of the trend, residents in both parishes are at least five times more likely to say that crime in their parish has increased than has decreased,” the UNO researchers wrote.

Most New Orleans residents who participated in the survey said they felt safe in their home at night, with only 36 percent saying that they didn’t.

“A tangible indicator of lack of safety is hearing gunfire in your neighborhood. In 2013, 24 percent of Black residents, compared to 14 percent of whites, said they heard gunfire in their neighborhood at least a few times a month or more. The current survey indicates that percentage has held steady for whites, but a higher percentage of Blacks, nearly 30 percent, report hearing gunfire at a consistent rate. In fact, the percentage of Blacks who say they hear gunfire on a regular basis is twice that for the city’s white residents,” the researchers wrote.

“The 68 percent approval rating for the mayor among Blacks was a little surprising,” Ramessu Merriamen Aha, a New Orleans businessman and former congressional candidate, told The Louisiana Weekly. “But you have to take it with a grain of salt, when you consider that surveys can be slanted to reflect whatever those who conduct surveys want to find. The questions you ask, the way you ask those questions and the people you include in the survey all factor hugely in the outcome of the survey.”

Aha added that the mayor’s rising approval among Blacks may give credence to a rumor that’s been circulating around New Orleans in recent weeks. According to the unconfirmed rumor, the mayor has struck an agreement with Congressman Cedric Richmond where the congressman will run for re-election and remain in that post until voters make a decision about a third term for Mayor Landrieu. Should that effort fail, the mayor would then run for Richmond’s congressional seat and the congressman would step down to run for mayor.

“That actually makes a lot of sense,” Aha told The Louisiana Weekly. “In this current Republic- controlled environment, the mayor has no chance of winning a statewide race for the U.S. Senate. The only way he will make it to Congress is with the help and support of Black voters.

“We have to decide if the mayor deserves that support given his record on issues like environmental racism in play at the Booker T. Washington High School toxic landfill site, which he has still not addressed publicly, the lack of economic development in communities of color across the city, discrimination against contractors of color in the City’s public-bidding process and the mayor’s very public spats with the Orleans Parish Sheriff, Clerk of Criminal Court and the Civil Court judges.”

This article originally published in the April 11, 2016 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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