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Louisiana Survey Illustrates Depth of Political Divide

Sue Lincoln

The latest Louisiana Survey data released by the LSU Public Policy Lab shows what appears to be a deepening divide between Republicans and Democrats in this state.

“Breaking news: Democrats and Republicans don’t get along. They don’t like each other,” survey director Dr. Michael Henderson told the Baton Rouge Press Club Monday.  And he says that appearance of major differences is compounding the division.

“They’re not that far apart, but they see each other as pretty far apart. And ultimately, that’s what matters, that perception is what matters.”

When it comes to state finances, the survey shows a majority of both parties support more spending for roads and bridges, on health care, and for higher ed and K-12 education.

“Democrats support education funding a little bit more than Republicans do, but they’re both generally on the same side,” Henderson explained.

Both support raising the minimum wage, as well. But Henderson says there are areas where they take different sides.

“Democrats and Republican majorities take different positions on welfare spending, raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy, religious freedom laws, abortion and school vouchers.”

Henderson says the real schism goes beyond the issues.

“What’s alarming, I think, is the depth of antipathy between parties. The vast majority of Republicans – 87% -- have a negative opinion of Democrats.”

That statewide trend is certainly reflected in the animosity of some Louisiana House Republicans toward the Democratic governor. And another survey finding explains the special session results.

“The majority of Republicans want to see their elected officials to not give ground – even if it means less gets done in state government,” Henderson said of the survey result showing 52 percent of Louisiana Republicans oppose political compromise with the other party.

Henderson, whose doctorate is in Government and Public Policy, says that attitude guarantees dysfunction.

“In a representative government with separation of powers, divided government means if you want to get anything done, you have to compromise.”

And on that note, the full House is scheduled to vote this afternoon on over-riding Governor John Bel Edwards’ line-item vetoes from special session HB122—Cameron Henry’s budget-cutting measure.