EBR Survey: Crime worries down, medical marijuana OK
East Baton Rouge Parish residents are less worried about crime than they were a year ago. They would ride a train to New Orleans and its airport. More of them believe global warming is real and want the government to control emissions. They support legalizing marijuana sales for medical purposes, but not for personal use. For the first time, more than half support same-sex marriage, and an even stronger majority back a city-parish ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Those are some of the findings in the annual CityStats report, which is produced by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation to measure the quality of life in East Baton Rouge Parish.
In its sixth year, CityStats reveals where the parish has been, how far it has come and where it needs to go. CityStats includes more than 70 indicators that provide insight into the EBR economy, infrastructure, education, arts, environment, public safety and more.
The Foundation gathers public statistics and conducts a companion survey to assemble the report.
Key findings in the 2014 report:
- Good news: People are less worried about crime. 63% said they would feel safe walking alone in their neighborhood at night, up from 58% in 2013 and 55% in 2012. Overall, the number of murders declined in 2013 and total violent crimes dropped 11%.
- In 2014, 49% are worried they will be crime victims in the coming year, a drop form 57% in 2013 and 62% in 2012.
- Residents are divided over the performance of public versus charter schools, though a plurality are for charters. Forty-one percent say charter schools provider a better education than public schools, while 33% say no, and 25% didn’t know or had no opinion.
- A strong majority – 68% – would vote for a property tax to pay for early childhood education for all EBR children. Early childhood education, extensive research has shown, clearly improves test performances and graduation rates.
- 65% favor legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, but 55% are against legalizing possession for personal use. Still, 64% say it’s inevitable that marijuana sales and consumption will eventually be legal in Louisiana, as it is now in Washington and Colorado.
- Baton Rouge is more moderate this year: 34% in the 2014 survey identified themselves as moderates, up from 31% the year before. The “very conservatives” fell from 15% to 11%; all other categories were about the same.
- Seventy-two percent said they don’t want individual parishes to have the choice to raise gasoline taxes. But when asked in another question if they would pay a new EBR gasoline tax to build roads and infrastructure, a majority indicated they would pay some amount. Forty-two percent would pay 5 cents per gallon, 14% would pay 10 cents per gallon and 5% would pay 25 cents per gallon. Thirty-six percent would pay nothing.
- Eighty percent would hop aboard a passenger train from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, with 19% riding weekly and 31% more riding monthly.
- For the first time in the four years the question has been asked, a majority (54%) said gays and lesbians should have a constitutional right to get married. Last year, 47% were for it.
- Global warming believers increased to 61% in the 2014 survey from 58% last year. Moreover, 68% in 2014 said they want the government to do more to regulate emissions responsible for global warming. That’s up from 63% in 2013.
- Again, EBR residents believe their politicians aren’t listening to them. More than half - 55% - say they have “little” or “no” influence over elected officials. Only 6% this year say they have “high influence.”
- On a five-point scale, where “five” is excellent and “one” is poor, the fire department received the highest mark (4.5), followed by the library (4.4), BREC (3.8), the police department and sheriff’s office (3.5), Department of Public Works (3.2). The rankings for the agencies are about the same as the year before, except public schools, which slipped to 2.3 in 2014 from 2.6 in 2013.
- Mardi Gras parades have become as popular as college sports and tailgating in EBR. About 60% in the CityStats survey said they attended a Mardi Gras parade, as well as a sporting event in the previous year.
- Digital circulation at the Baton Rouge library continues to explode. Downloads of e-books, audiobooks and music nearly doubled to 323,950 in 2013, representing 13% of all circulation.
- East Baton Rouge’s population has been growing through births, but net migration – the number of people entering or leaving the parish –has been a problem. In 2012, 2,533 people left the parish, compared to 1,414 coming into the parish in the previous year.
- The percentage of children under 13 living in poverty remained at 29% in 2012. Meanwhile, 24% said they couldn’t afford food sometime in the previous year and 27% said they couldn’t afford health care.
- People remain impatient with the rate of progress in EBR, though a little less so. 53% said progress is too slow, an improvement from 56% in 2013 and 60% the year before.
- Sixty-two percent support a city-parish ordinance to prohibit discrimination in housing and employment based on an individual’s sexual orientation. Across all demographics and political ideology, more than half are for the ordinance.
The Foundation uses CityStats to guide its civic leadership projects and to assist our fund donors in making grants. The project is underwritten by the Newton B. Thomas Support Foundation, a supporting nonprofit of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.
Research for the project is conducted under contract with the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and the LSU Public Policy Research Lab, which runs the survey. Respondents to the poll are representative of the parish. The sample was 362 land lines and 160 cell phones for a total of 522 responses. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.3%. The poll was conducted in April and May 2014.