Poll: St. George responders split on incorporating

40% favor it, 35% say no; outside proposed city, 59% call it bad

Registered voters in the proposed city of St. George appear to be split on whether to incorporate, according to poll results released Monday by the LSU Public Policy Research Lab.

Forty percent of those surveyed in the area proposed for St. George support becoming an independent city, while 35 percent were in opposition and 25 percent were unsure.

“Both sides of the issue may find this information encouraging as there is still substantial movement possible amongst unsure voters, which could flip either side over the 50 percent mark,” the report states.

When the question was posed parishwide, support diminished. Fifty percent of those responding oppose the St. George movement and 29 percent support it, with 21 percent unsure.

Norman Browning, a leader of the incorporation effort, said he thinks the poll data coming from St. George respondents is encouraging and reflects the generally positive attitudes toward the proposed new city.

He said he is confident enough undecided voters will come around in favor of the city to push them over 50 percent in the event of an election.

Michael Climek, the operations manager of the LSU Public Policy Research Lab, said that based on this poll, he doesn’t think St. George supporters would have enough votes to create a city if a vote were done now. But, he noted that opinions are changing daily as more information comes out and attention is shed on the issue.

If the organizers behind the St. George incorporation are successful in getting the requisite 18,000 signatures on a petition, the new city would be voted on by only those registered voters within the city limits of the proposed St. George.

Survey respondents in all parts of the parish agreed the creation of St. George would be bad for the parish, bad for Baton Rouge, but good for the residents of St. George.

Parishwide, 59 percent of participants said St. George would be bad for the parish; 53 percent of participants inside St. George said it would be bad for the parish, and 63 percent of participants outside of St. George said it would be bad for the parish.

When asked about the impact the proposed city would have on just Baton Rouge, about 63 percent of responders parishwide said it would be bad for Baton Rouge. The number was about the same among participants both inside St. George, and excluding St. George.

But the plurality of those surveyed, even outside of St. George, recognized the new city would benefit its new residents. Almost 50 percent of parishwide participants of the survey said they thought incorporation would be good for residents of St. George; 53 percent of St. George residents and 47 percent of non-St. George residents agreed.

Browning said people who think St. George would be bad for the parish are buying into their opponents’ “scare tactics.”

“If you have another great city within the parish, it can only better the parish,” he said.

St. George has become a controversial topic in recent weeks, with some opponents suggesting the push for a new city is racially motivated and would leave the parish and Baton Rouge with a massive budget shortfall.

LSU economists projected the new city would cut $53 million a year from the city-parish coffers; St. George officials say they expect it would be closer to $14 million.

The PPRL survey includes the responses of 1,097 randomly selected registered voters. Of those, 465 live in the proposed St. George area.

The interviews were conducted between Oct. 24 and Nov. 12, and the survey has a margin of error of 2.95 percentage points.

The survey also identified some stark differences in the demographics of the poll participants. For example, 78 percent of the participants in the St. George area are white and 16 percent are black. Of those repondents outside of St. George, 35 percent are white and 60 percent are black.

The poll also notes an income disparity, with 42 percent of St. George respondents reporting a household income of more than $75,000 a year while outside St. George, only 25 percent of the poll respondents reported household income of more than $75,000 a year.

The St. George respondents were more likely to identify as Republican, and non-St. George respondents were more likely to identify as Democrat.

Two-thirds of the St. George respondents with children under 18 reported having a child in private school, compared with only 20 percent of the respondents outside of St. George.

Climek said the poll was not commissioned by either side on the issue.

“The mission of the PPRL is to promote discourse through analysis of public opinion and this is an extremely big issue facing Baton Rouge right now,” Climek said.

Notably, the well-publicized financial impact study , which could have had an impact on the opinions of the poll respondents, was released after the poll was conducted.

Climek said there’s already talk of doing a follow up poll on this matter in January or Feburary.