With election season ramping up, a new poll shows Louisiana voters believe officials need to prioritize coastal land loss.
Among the results, 98% of respondents believe the state should work to maintain the coast even if it can't be restored to its former size. Ninety-seven percent said it is important for officials to protect money for coastal restoration, and 96% said officials needed to identify additional revenue sources.
"Voters are in widespread agreement that addressing coastal land loss must be a top priority for those who are seeking public office," said Steve Cochran, campaign director for environmental coalition Restore the Mississippi River Delta.
Pollsters and political consultants Bernie Pinsonat and Greg Rigamer said they were amazed to see the results reach what wold be considered a consensus on several questions on the importance of coastal restoration.
To reach the 95-99 percent range is "highly unusual" for pollsters, said Rigamer.
"The overall poll numbers are so strong that everybody in Louisiana, you can literally say, is for coastal restoration," he said.
Sixty-three percent of respondents said they were in favor of a state tax that would go directly toward coastal restoration and protection, near the support needed to try to levy a new tax, according to the pollsters.
"If it gets below 60%, it's iffy," said Pinsonat. "Right now, this project is reaching numbers across the board that there is enough support."
Cochran said because the state's current source of revenue, the settlement for the BP oil spill, is expected to run out around 2032, this question was a way to start looking at the dynamics for finding other money.
"We have a lot of very important, significant plans, and for all the wrong reasons, we have some money to get started," he said.
Conducted by BDPC, LLC+Pinsonat, live questioners interviewed 1,006 people who have consistently voted across seven regions defined by the surveyors. The Bayou Central Region was comprised of Lafourche, Terrebonne and St. Mary's parishes.
The results had a 3% margin of error at a 95% confidence level for statewide results, and an 8% margin of error for the individual subareas. In the Bayou Central Region, 140 voters were surveyed.
The statewide poll is similar to one that was conducted in late 2018 of just 24 parishes in southern Louisiana.
Unlike the previous poll, the new survey asked participants whether they believe in climate change and more extreme weather.
Statewide, almost three quarters of participants said they believe in climate change and believe it would have a direct impact on future generations in Louisiana. That support dropped to about two-thirds for those in the Bayou Central Region.
However, when asked if extreme weather will have a greater impact in the future, 80% statewide and 74% in this region said they believe it will.
Seventy-four percent of participants across the state also said weather events, such as flooding or hurricanes, are becoming more extreme. In the Bayou region, 61% said they are.
The vast majority of participants viewed protecting communities from storm surge as the main reason to restore the coast.
According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 97 percent of climate scientists have reached a consensus that climate change is real and the warming trends are caused by human activities.
The percentage of those who believe in climate change were higher than the pollsters expected considering the political landscape in Louisiana, though Pinsonat noted it is unclear how the state's voters will react to a national debate about emissions.
Staff Writer Halle Parker can be reached at email@example.com or 857-2204. Follow her on Twitter, @_thehalparker.