SLU Poll: Attitudes Among St. Bernard Parish Voters About The Mississippi
River Gulf Outlet
SURVEY SHOWS ST. BERNARD VOTERS WANT MRGO CLOSED
HAMMOND – Most registered voters in
St. Bernard Parish think the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) should
be closed in some way, according to a poll conducted by Southeastern Louisiana
University’s Florida Parishes Social Science Research Center.
Directed by Kurt Corbello of the Southeastern
Department of History and Political Science, the poll was conducted in
early May and involved a random sample survey of 407 registered voters
in the parish. The survey, which was done at the request of the Lake Pontchartrain
Basin Foundation, has an overall sampling error of plus or minus five percent.
“Our poll suggests that most voters
in St. Bernard Parish think something should be done about the MRGO and
certainly oppose the status quo with regard to boat traffic,” Corbello
said. In addition, he said a vast majority of those surveyed – 70 percent
– described themselves as being familiar or very familiar with issues concerning
Approximately 36 percent of the respondents
believe the MRGO should be completely closed; 17 percent think it should
be open only to small boats; and approximately 10 percent say it should
be open only to small boats and barges. Less than one-fourth of the individuals
polled – 23 percent – think the MRGO should remain open to all traffic.
The survey indicates that nearly two-thirds
of the respondents (65.8%) believe the MRGO increases the likelihood of
flooding in St. Bernard Parish during a hurricane; 16.7 percent believe
MRGO has no effect on flooding; and 3.4 percent think it reduces the likelihood
of flooding. Fourteen percent of respondents don’t know the effects on
flooding or refused to answer.
Only about 10 percent of the respondents
indicated that they or someone in their family were employed in some manner
that depends directly on the MRGO. Nearly nine percent of respondents (8.6%)
said they or a member of their family had lost property due to erosion
along the MRGO. Both are factors that could influence an individual’s opinion
about MRGO, Corbello explained.
Corbello sought to put the issue of
MRGO within the context of other problems affecting voters in St. Bernard
by asking survey participants to express what they thought were the most
important problems facing the people of the parish. The top five concerns
expressed were illegal drugs (10.1%), jobs and unemployment (7.8%), the
need to close the MRGO (7.1%), coastal erosion (6.9%), and crime (6.6%).
In grouping issues by similarities or broad themes, Corbello said the voters
are most concerned about the environment (MRGO, erosion, flooding and pollution:
22.7%), economic development issues (jobs, economy, education: 18.5%),
and illegal drugs and crime (16.7%)
The responses to this question were
open-ended, Corbello explained, in which participants were not presented
a preconceived list of problems to prompt their responses.
“This approach,” he said, “is the best
way to determine what is really on the minds of respondents. The fact that
closing the MRGO is the third-ranked, volunteered response enhances our
view of the actual importance of the issue in the mind of the public.”
Southeastern’s Florida Parishes Social
Science Research Center works cooperatively with university faculty to
provide objective and independent analyses of public opinion on important
issues and elections. Polls are conducted by specially trained individuals
working under close professional supervision.