Party Messaging Lesson: Keep It Local

Nov 21, 2017

There was a noticeable lack of enthusiasm for the state Treasurer's race — from voters, and from the traditional political parties, as well.  Meanwhile, more than 25 percent of voters in the state are now registered as "other" or "no party." Is there a link?

"I’m not ready to say that it means there's dissatisfaction with the party system. At the very least, it just means there's no advantage to be gained by declaring anything," University of Louisiana at Monroe political science professor Joshua Stockley says.

"Louisiana's electoral mechanism provides no incentive to register for a party. It doesn't matter how you register: every individual gets the same ballot," he clarifies. "That being said, absolutely the Democrats and Republicans need to pay attention to this audience."

Stockley says one reason for the rise in independent voters may be due to both parties having trouble crafting their messaging these days.

"Democrats have a consistency in their messaging problem. The Republican Party can't make an election purely national and expect to win," he explains. "Partisan appeals are not going to automatically be the recipe for victory. You can't declare all things Democrat and win, and you can't necessarily declare all things Republican  and win."

Although Louisiana has been characterized as a "red" state, Stockley says election results have shown appeals purely parroting national party lines don’t always resonate with residents.

"I think, among other things, the voters recognize that these federal partisan issues are not necessarily Louisiana's issues, or state issues. That being said, this is a conservative state, so conservative messages as opposed to Republican messages are still more likely to appeal to a large number of voters here."

But, he says, successful messaging really all goes back to how Louisiana's electoral system works: "Republicans are still capable of voting for Democrats; Democrats are still capable of voting Republican; and independents are capable of voting in either direction. So the messaging has to remain local."