Southern Voting behavior since the 1960s
Voters in many areas of the U.S. are apt to vote differently as a whole from election to election. The nation has also had a decreased turnout rate for the presidential and local elections. The South has typically not followed these patterns that the rest of has seemed to be following. The Southern whites of the U.S. have typically followed and voted for the more conservative candidate and party. Where as the Southern blacks have typically (when they have been able to vote) voted for the more liberal party or candidate. The South was at one time a Democratic stronghold and has in the past 30 years become a typically conservative voting electorate. This tendency of voting by race for the liberal or conservative candidate has been a continuing occurrence. Southern turn out for elections has been significantly lower than the rest of the nation as well over the same time period. This bias of the past 30 years as well as voter turn out has only recently began to change in the South.
In the beginning of and prior to the 1960’s the South was a Democratic stronghold and it was rare for there to be any competition from Republicans in these non competitive states (Mulcahy p.56). A poll taken in the 1960’s showed that ” the southern states were the obvious stronghold of Democratic identification. The extreme case was Louisiana, where 66% identified with the Democratic party”(Black p.44). This all began to change as the Democratic party became more liberal in its national policy views. The Democrats became too liberal in their policies concerning civil rights for the white Southerners to continue voting for them. (Mulcahy p.40). This reason along with others is what drove the Southern whites to change there voting habits of the last 100 years. The white Southerners began to vote for presidents of the Republican party and for Independents such as the Dixiecrats, because they were more conservative on a national scale. The Largest change of the Southern voters occurred in 1960 when “the southern white Protestant presidential vote went Republican”(Wayne p62). This would of allowed for the democrats to lose the south if the black electorate had not voted Democrat.
The black Southern voters at the time of the 1960’s were just again able to participate with their rights to vote. This was because shortly after the Civil War and reconstruction the Southern whites reduced and eventually removed the short lived black political power. They added laws that made it mandatory to take tests for voter eligibility, as well as discouraging black voting at all. This discrimination greatly reduced if not completely halted black voting in the south until the 1950’s and 1960’s. It was not until 1965 that the Voting Rights Act was passed that prohibited literacy tests for federal elections did blacks obtain their constitutional right to vote (Wayne p.70). Many blacks did in fact support the Republican party for quite a long time because they were known as the party of reconstruction and freeing of the slaves. Black voting turned towards the Democrats in the 1930’s and 40’s on the advice of “One N.A.A.C.P. leader… Turn your pictures of Lincoln to the wall, the debt is paid in full”(Mulcahy p 37). This black voting for the Democrats created a problem in of its self, that the Blacks were continuing to vote for the local white conservative Democrats, that upheld the traditional Southern white views. This lead to the continued power of the oppressive whites, even though the party platform was one of reform. It was not until the early 70’s that when the Republicans won the election for the governor of Virginia was the two party system fully revived in the south (U.S. news p. 210). This two party system allowed Democrats to run on a more liberal platform, which gave the blacks the representation that they wanted.
Voting in the South since the 1960’s has followed the pattern of voting for the most staunch conservative, or protector of Southern whites views. In the 1968 election Southern whites in the Deep South voted for George C. Wallace, while the rest of the South split on Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. In the Election of 1972 This trend seemed to continue, in that Nixon was the more conservative of the two Presidential Nominees and thus he carried the South. In the 1976 Election it seems that even the Southern whites were shaken by the Watergate Scandal in that it voted for a Democrat, Jimmy Carter. Carter was not a conservative, but was from the South, and pulled both the conservative Southern white as well as the Southern black votes. In 1980 it seems that the Southern whites once again decided on a conservative candidate when Ronald Reagan garnered all of the south except for Georgia. In the 1984 election Ronald Reagan took 49 of the states and all of the South. This had a good deal to do with Reagans belief in the moral and religious right as well as his get tough policies with the Russians. In the 1988 election, the staunch conservative George Bush once again held the South solid in its vote for a conservative president. He carried on many of Reagans ideas about the moral majority, and had conservative views. In the 1992 Election the South split as a majority of the south voted for the conservative Bush, but several border and deep south states voted for Clinton (http://www.worldmedia.fr/USelections/electionva/history/index.html). In 1992 it seemed that Clinton was able to pull around 34% of the Southern white vote (survey N.Y. Times) In the 1996 election the South was once again split, While a majority of the Southern states did go to Bob Dole, while several of the same states that supported Clinton before supported him once again. (Wattenburg p.147) The times that a non conservative presidential nominee has won a sizeable amount of the southern support seems to have been when a large majority of blacks were registered to vote, as in the 1996 elections when Clinton carried several states that had a sizeable percentage of Blacks registered to vote and where a large percentage of the total voters were registered as Democrats. (http://www.src.w1.com/vrrsum1996_motor_cht1_nf.htm). The once strong hold of the Republicans in the South during national elections seems to be slowly fading. If these last 30 years are indiciative of what is to come, the next 30 years should show increased diversity in the states of the south, and their electoral voting.
Voter turn out in the South has been comparatively low in regards to the rest of the nation. This has been a trend that has occurred over the last 100 years as well as the last 30 years. The percentage of the registered voters in the south that voted in the elections in 1966 and 1970 was roughly 10-15% less than in other portions of the country (mulcahy p. 59). The voters of the south also believed that their fathers were the most interested in politics, and that their mothers were not interested in them. Black political interest was considerably lower than it was in the rest of the country as well for both males and females (Black p. 41-42). In the last 30 years as well as in recent elections the voter turn out in the south has gone up in comparison to the rest of the U.S.(Wayne p. 71). But at the same time the voter turn out for blacks has gone down in recent years. (Wayne p.74) This turnout has worried many and may create the same problem that had been taking place in thesouth during the early 20th century, of under representation of a specific group of people. This would not be due to oppression or laws that forbid voting, but from the “whats the use attitude” of why vote. (Wayne p. 74)
Voters in the South have been very constrained in their views and beliefs for over a hundred and twenty years. Since the urbanization and expansion of the cities of the South, there has been increased change and emergence of multiple political parties. The migration of new peoples and racial groups into these urban areas has helped to create a new political south. The once solid south, is no longer the same, because of this expansion and socio economic link to the rest of the country. States such as Florida and Louisiana have expanded and are still growing because of this link. Certain parts of the South, specifically the deep South has yet to fully urbanize and when this does occur, so will the continued breaking up of the once solid South.
Gans Curtis “1994 Congressional Elections: An Analysis Realignment and Dealignment”(http://www.concentric.net/~ewla/vdr95/gans.html)(10-31-97)
Southern Regional Council “Motor Voter May be the key” (http://www.src.w1.com/vrrsum1996_motor_cht1_nf.htm). (11-3-97)
World Media Live “Election Results and History” (http://www.worldmedia.fr/USelections/electionva/history/index.html) (11-2-97)
Voter Research and Surveys, New York Times, November 5, 1992, p.b9
Wayne, Stephen. The Road to the Whitehouse. New York, St Martins Press 1984.
Wattenburg, Martin and Edwards, George, and Lineberry, Robert. Government in America . 3rd ed., New York, Addison-Wesly Educational Publishers inc. 1997.
Black, Merle and Kovenock, David and Reynolds, William. Political Attitudes in the Nation & the States. University North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Institute for Research in Social Science. 1974
Mulcahy, Kevin and Katz, Richard. America Votes: What You Should Know About Elections Today. New Jersey, Prentice Hall Inc. 1976.
U.S. News & World Report Politics Inside and Out Washington D.C., U.S. News and World Report. 1970