Old Times There Are Not Forgotten: Race and Partisan Realignment in the Contemporary South


  • We would like to thank Chris Achen, Jake Bowers, Vincent Hutchings, Orit Kedar, Don Kinder, John R. Petrocik, and the anonymous reviewers for valuable feedback.

Nicholas A. Valentino is associate professor of communication studies and political science and research associate professor, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, 4244 ISR Bldg., 426 Thompson Street, P.O. Box 1248, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1248 (nvalenti@umich.edu). David O. Sears is professor of political science and psychology and Director of the Institute for Social Science Research, University of California, Los Angeles, 4250 Public Policy Building, Box 951484, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1484 (sears@issr.ucla.edu).


Our focus is the regional political realignment that has occurred among whites over the past four decades. We hypothesize that the South's shift to the Republican party has been driven to a significant degree by racial conservatism in addition to a harmonizing of partisanship with general ideological conservatism. General Social Survey and National Election Studies data from the 1970s to the present indicate that whites residing in the old Confederacy continue to display more racial antagonism and ideological conservatism than non-Southern whites. Racial conservatism has become linked more closely to presidential voting and party identification over time in the white South, while its impact has remained constant elsewhere. This stronger association between racial antagonism and partisanship in the South compared to other regions cannot be explained by regional differences in nonracial ideology or nonracial policy preferences, or by the effects of those variables on partisanship.