At the end of the special legislative session earlier this month, Gov. John Bel Edwards said he worried that Louisiana could soon face the same partisan gridlock that has ground the nation’s capital to a halt.
The latest installment of the Louisiana Survey may back up his fears.
Based on the LSU Public Policy Research Lab’s latest findings, the perceived gap between Democrat and Republican ideological views is growing in Louisiana and fewer than half of voters believe leaders should work across the aisle toward compromise.
With a Democrat as governor and GOP-controlled chambers of the state Legislature, research director Michael Henderson said the survey’s findings seem to indicate that Louisiana could be barreling toward a “nightmare scenario” of gridlock, a la Washington, D.C.
“We often operate with this myth that state politics are a separate sphere from national politics,” Henderson said. “That’s just not so.”
“The key political question in Louisiana today is, ‘Can these lawmakers compromise?’ ” he said during Monday’s luncheon of the Press Club of Baton Rouge.
The Louisiana Survey, which checks the state’s political pulse annually, was conducted by phone from Feb. 1-26 and includes a sample of 1,001 residents. The margin of error is 3.1 percent.
The latest chapter of the report points out that “Republicans and Democrats often differ in the amount of support or opposition, but on most issues, these differences do not end up with the majority within each party on opposing sides.”
But it also found that there is a gap in how Democrats and Republicans see each other that magnifies the divide between the two major political parties here.
Democrats were most likely to say they view Louisiana Democrats as moderates, while the typical Republican identified the state’s Democratic Party as “liberal.”
Meanwhile, Republicans identified themselves more often as “somewhat conservative” while Democrats said that the Louisiana GOP is “conservative.”
“That perception is what matters, more than actual proximity,” Henderson said.
Only 49 percent of respondents said that elected leaders should work across party lines to reach compromise, while 45 percent said they preferred leaders who stick to their guns — even if it means nothing gets done.
The split was pronounced among parties, with 55 percent of Democrats backing compromise and 52 percent of Republicans saying leaders should stick to their positions.
“This is very distressing news,” Henderson said. “This means we are on the road to Washington, D.C., politics.”
After lawmakers failed to hash out a full deal to solve the budget crisis during the special legislative session, Edwards had expressed concern about partisanship at the State Capitol, pledging to “fight against it with every fiber of my being.”
“I hope this does not become Washington, D.C., but it’s quite possible that you just witnessed something that is evidence that we have taken a step in that direction,” he said.
During his State of the State speech last week to open the regular session, Edwards again stressed how Louisiana should be different from the national stage.
“As we work together to solve our state’s problems, let’s continue marching to the beat of our own drum and not Washington, D.C.’s,” he said.