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Daunting Tasks 

Gov.-elect Kathleen Blanco comes into office riding a wave of goodwill, but voters have high expectations of the new administration -- and relatively dim views of Louisiana's prospects. Those are among the results of a recent statewide voter survey conducted for the Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL).

The survey shows that 71 percent of those interviewed believe "the election of the new governor sends a positive message to the rest of the country about Louisiana." That's a very significant number in light of the fact that Blanco captured just 52 percent of the vote against Republican Bobby Jindal. In fact, 45 percent strongly agreed with that statement -- and nearly half of them voted for Jindal, according to CABL.

The survey was taken by Wirthlin Worldwide, a respected national polling firm, just one week after Blanco's Nov. 15 victory in the governor's race. Pollsters interviewed 600 voters across the state and the survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

Among the other findings of the CABL survey:

· Forty-nine percent said the candidate's position on issues was the main reason they voted as they did. Twenty-three percent said they just liked the person they voted for, while 17 percent mentioned political party affiliation, 12 percent based their vote on experience, and 10 percent cited effective leadership skills. Only 9 percent said they voted for a candidate because they didn't like the other -- and only 2 percent mentioned endorsements as a factor.

· Fifty-three percent of those surveyed believe Louisiana is headed in the right direction. That compares with 49 percent who expressed that view in 2002. But the number of people who believe the state is "seriously off on the wrong track" has also increased -- from 28 percent last year to 33 percent in 2003.

· At the same time, voters expressed grave concerns about Louisiana. For example, 60 percent of those surveyed feel a sense of frustration living in Louisiana; 51 percent feel a sense of complacency; 45 percent say they are worried; 41 percent feel a sense of indifference; more than 40 percent do not believe "trust," "success" or "confidence" describe living in Louisiana; and 40 percent are embarrassed about living in Louisiana.

· Forty percent still agree with the statement, "Louisiana politics has become so corrupt and dishonest, I feel like my vote for change will never make a difference." The good news, if you can call it that, is that the number represents the lowest percentage of voters responding that way since CABL started posing the question. The initial high was 55 percent in 1994.

· Thirty-three percent continue to say they would leave Louisiana given the means and opportunity to do so. That's a slight increase from the 31 percent who said it in 2001, but less than the 38 percent answering that way in 1994. Interestingly, 33 percent said that someone in their family has left the state to pursue a job or other economic opportunity in the last two years. Of those, 86 percent said their family member is still living away.

· Sixty-four percent said they have high expectations that Blanco will be able to move Louisiana forward, compared to 32 percent who don't. Seventy-five percent said they have high expectations that she will be able to work effectively with lawmakers, compared to 22 percent who disagree. Blanco was a state representative before moving on to the Public Service Commission and then lieutenant governor.

"The good news out of this survey is that more people have positive feelings about their life in Louisiana than negative ones. That gives us a foundation to continue to build upon for improving our state," said Barry Erwin, CABL President.

"At the same time it is important to recognize that significant numbers of people are still frustrated by things in Louisiana. Many are worried and embarrassed, and they lack trust and confidence in the state. Hopefully, these are things the new administration won't lose sight of and will work to address."

Every governor deserves a honeymoon. Blanco's may be cut short by the daunting tasks she faces. To her credit, she has always proved herself to be resilient and upbeat. Those are great attributes to bring to the table.

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