John Bel Edwards is Favored in Louisiana’s Governor Election

By: Sean McElwee, co-founder Data for Progress; Colin McAuliffe, co-founder Data for Progress; Ryan O’Donnell, Senior Data Science Advisor, Data for Progress; Henry Hoglund, Senior Polling Advisor, Data for Progress


A new Data for Progress survey shows that Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, is favored in the gubernatorial primary election on Saturday, October 12, commanding a strong plurality of the vote (48 percent) over his closest Republican competitors. The Louisiana secretary of state is currently projecting a 45–46 percent turnout, and with strong turnout numbers, Governor Edwards might well clear the 50 percent threshold he needs to avoid a runoff election in November. 

We also find that a wide breadth of modeled likely voters support a broad range of progressive policy positions, including criminal justice reform, Medicaid expansion, a $15 minimum wage, and the government negotiating prescription drug costs.

Data for Progress has been testing a new method for short, ten- to twenty-question surveys that can help progressive organizations achieve low-cost responses in small geographies. The method, called Volunteer-Initiated Text-to-Mobile Survey (VITMS, pronounced “vitamins”) is a standard text-to-web instrument delivered through volunteers. 

Here we present the results of a test that Data for Progress ran in Louisiana, ahead of the 2019 gubernatorial jungle primary election. We were in the field October 4–10, and surveyed 1,525 registered voters which we modeled to a likely voter electorate using a commercial voter file - our margin of error is +/-3.4 percent with a 95 percent confidence interval. Our topline finding is that Governor Edwards has a strong plurality of voters when we push the lean voters into a firm choice, and that an outright majority for Governor Edwards is within the margin of error. 

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Edwards’s performance is impressive given Trump’s approval in the state: 56 percent in our poll. This suggests decent crossover appeal for Governor Edwards. The other piece for the Edwards campaign is they have successfully consolidated the Trump-disapprovers into their coalition, a strong sign for Edwards’s mobilization efforts.

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We also modeled Congressional District-level support for the candidates. We see Edwards favored to win a plurality or better in all of the districts.

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Additionally, we included several policy issues in our poll. Despite the strong support for President Trump in our sample, progressive policies also had strong support. Fifty-six percent of voters supported a $15 minimum wage, with 39 percent opposing. In addition, 73 percent of voters supported allowing the government to negotiate the cost of pharmaceuticals with the government. 

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Voters strongly favor having the government negotiate the price of drugs with pharmaceutical companies, with intensity all on the favorable side (42 percent strongly support, while only 5 percent strongly oppose). This tracks with other historical data showing that Americans (1) are particularly concerned with the cost of prescription drugs, and (2) have a generally negative view of pharmaceutical companies. In the closing days of the runoff election, a strong push on Big Pharma may prove effective for the Edwards campaign to build the broad coalition he needs to retain the Governor’s Mansion.

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The plurality preference for likely voters is for abortion to be legal only in the cases of rape, incest, and if the life of the mother is at risk (37 percent support). A bit less than a third of voters (30 percent) support abortion in all cases, and only about one in five (21 percent) support an abortion ban.

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Voters overwhelmingly support the recent reforms to criminal justice. Support for such reforms outpolls opposition about two-to-one, and enthusiastic support outweighs enthusiastic opposition by a similar margin (59 percent overall support, with 23 percent strongly supporting; 30 percent overall opposition, with 11 percent strongly opposing). 

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Sixty-two percent of voters support Medicaid expansion, and 33 percent strongly support it. That overwhelms strong opposition (7 percent) and indicates that Governor Edwards’s signing of Medicaid expansion is not only robustly supported but also a strong reason to reelect him. 

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However, half of likely voters either have not heard of Louisiana’s Medicaid expansion or do not believe it has been expanded, suggesting not enough outreach and advertising is being done on the issue. Data for Progress strongly encourages a renewed focus on the Medicaid expansion in campaign advertising, in order to turn out these voters, who may be disproportionately black and thus likely to support Edwards’s reelection. (Fifty-two percent of Louisiana’s black population is enrolled in Medicaid, with 1.25 million enrollees in LA overall, as of July 2019.)

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As seen in this experimental test in Louisiana, progressive policies remain popular with a broad swath of voters. We anticipate in the coming weeks conducting more research tests and experiments to further validate the research presented here.


Question Wording:

Do you support or oppose raising the minimum wage in Louisiana to $15 an hour?

  • Strongly support

  • Support

  • Oppose

  • Strongly oppose

  • Don’t know

Would you support or oppose allowing the government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies about the prices of all prescription drugs?

  • Strongly support

  • Support

  • Oppose

  • Strongly oppose

  • Don’t know

Which one of these opinions on abortion is closer to your view?

  • By law, abortion should never be permitted

  • The law should permit abortion only in the case of rape, incest or when the woman’s life is in danger 

  • The law should permit abortion for reasons other than rape, incest or danger to the woman’s life, but only after the need for the abortion has been clearly established 

  • By law, a woman should always be able to obtain an abortion as a matter of choice 

Recently, Louisiana made several changes to its criminal justice system, such as shortening prison sentences for some crimes, expanding eligibility for parole, and diverting some offenders to drug courts instead of the prison system. Do you support or oppose these changes?

  • Strongly support

  • Support

  • Oppose

  • Strongly oppose

  • Don’t know

Medicaid is a program to provide health coverage mostly to low-income individuals. Recently, several states have expanded their Medicaid programs to provide health care coverage to more people. From what you may have heard, has Louisiana expanded its Medicaid program in recent years or not? Or are you not sure?

  • Yes, has expanded

  • No, has not expanded

  • Not sure

Recently, Louisiana expanded its Medicaid program to give health care coverage to more people. This increased the number of people getting insurance from Medicaid by 560,000 people, reduced the uninsured rate by 50%, and created new healthcare jobs. To pay for the expansion, the state pays 10% of the cost and the federal government pays the rest. Do you support or oppose the state’s decision to expand its Medicaid program?

  • Strongly support

  • Support

  • Oppose

  • Strongly oppose

  • Don’t know


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