2021 Louisiana survey shows residents’ different views on race and class

Published 1:47 pm Monday, April 12, 2021

BATON ROUGE—Researchers in the Public Policy Research Lab (PPRL) at LSU Manship School of Mass Communication’s Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs have released the fourth of five reports of the 2021 Louisiana Survey. Findings show Black and white Louisianans see discrimination and racial progress very differently.

The Louisiana Survey polled 781 adult residents from across the state to find out how Louisianans view their government and its policies. The survey was conducted from January 4 to March 1, and the total sample has a +/- 6.4% margin of error.


Findings from the fourth of five reports indicate the following views on race and class in Louisiana:

  • The survey asks about the extent of racial discrimination in six different situations: In hiring, pay and promotions at work; in stores and restaurants; when applying for a loan or mortgage; in dealing with the police; when voting in elections; and when seeking medical treatment. A majority (55%) of the state’s residents believe Black people are treated less fairly than white people in dealing with the police. In the remaining five situations, however, most do not believe Black people are treated less fairly.
  • Perceptions of discrimination differ considerably between white respondents and Black respondents. With the exception of encounters with the police, the majority of white respondents say white people and Black people are treated equally across all of these situations.
  • Black Louisiana residents overwhelmingly (84%) believe the country needs to make further changes to achieve equal rights. Far fewer white Louisianans (39%) believe the country needs further change to achieve equality of rights.
  • Overall, 45% of Louisiana residents think being white helps someone’s chances of getting ahead, and 46% say being Black hurts a person’s chances. White residents of Louisiana tend to think race plays little, if any, role in a person’s chances of getting ahead.
  • In contrast, white Louisianans think someone’s socioeconomic class plays a big role in advancement. Seventy-nine percent (79%) say being rich helps, and 78% also think being poor hurts, including 58% who say it hurts a lot. When it comes to the role of wealth in shaping someone’s chances of getting ahead, attitudes of Black Louisianans are similar to those of white Louisianans. However, Black residents of Louisiana also think race plays an important role.
  • Approximately two-thirds (66%) of Louisiana residents think the economic system in America unfairly favors the wealthy, an eight percentage-point increase since 2016.
  • Louisiana residents are divided almost evenly between those who favor a smaller government providing fewer services (48%) and those favoring a larger government providing more services (45%).
  • Seventy-eight percent (78%) approve of the state’s 2016 expansion of Medicaid. Similarly, most (76%) approve of last year’s expansion of unemployment insurance benefits.

Michael Henderson, director of LSU’s Public Policy Research Center, is available for interviews. Contact acharbonnet1@lsu.edu  to schedule.

The Louisiana Survey has been conducted for the past 20 years, establishing rich longitudinal measures of public opinion in Louisiana. The mission of the Louisiana Survey is to establish benchmarks as well as to capture change in residents’ assessments of state government services. The survey is further dedicated to tracking public opinion on the contemporary policy issues that face the state. Each iteration of the Louisiana Survey contains core items designed to serve as barometers of public sentiment, including assessments of whether the state is heading in the right direction or wrong direction, perceptions about the most important problems facing the state, as well as evaluations of public revenue sources and spending priorities.

The survey is a project of the Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs, an integral part of the Manship School of Mass Communication. The Reilly Center’s mission is to generate thoughtful programs, dialogue and research about mass communication and its many-faceted relationships with social, economic and political issues.

Read the previous three reports from the Louisiana Survey at http://pprllsu.com/projects. The final report from the Louisiana Survey is slated for release on Tuesday, April 13.

For more information, contact acharbonnet1@lsu.edu.