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Regional Variations in the Realignment of American Politics, 1944–2004


  • *Direct correspondence to Charles S. Bullock, III, Department of Political Science, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602 〈〉. Data and coding information are available from the authors for any party or parties wishing to replicate the study. Earlier versions of this article were presented at the 2002 Southwestern Political Science Association Meeting and the 2000 American Political Science Association Meeting. We thank the journal editor and the anonymous reviewers for their guidance and suggestions for revision of the article, and also Earl Black, Merle Black, and Jonathan Knuckey for their reaction and suggestions on earlier versions of this article.


Objective. Perennial questions in electoral studies are what constitutes realignment, and when and where do realignments occur? Using the concepts of critical and secular realignments as a framework, we model change in the end product of realignment, election outcomes. We test for secular and critical changes in partisan strength across six geographic regions of the United States, focusing on office-holding data at both the federal and state legislative level.

Methods. Using an interrupted time-series model, we examine evidence for secular realignment and posit five critical interventions that have affected American politics since World War II.

Results. Our findings suggest that there are elements of both critical and secular realignments at work with different patterns in each region, and that different regions have been affected by a variety of elections associated with critical events since 1944.

Conclusions. The collapse of Republican hegemony in the Northeast and Pacific West has gone largely unnoticed, buried in the intense examination of the growth of the Republican Party in the American South. The 1994 election is the most prominent in terms of its impact on seat holding by the parties at both the state and national level, and constitutes a realigning election.