Partisanship, Party Coalitions, and Group Support, 1952-2004


  • AUTHORS’ NOTE: This is a revised version of a paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, September 1 to 4, 2005, in Washington, DC.

Harold W. Stanley holds the Geurin-Pettus Distinguished Chair in American Politics and Political Economy at Southern Methodist University. Coeditor of Vital Statistics on American Politics, 2005-2006, he has published on political change in the South, presidential nominations, voting rights, and partisan change. His current research concerns southern politics and Latino politics.

Richard G. Niemi, Don Alonzo Watson Professor of Political Science at the University of Rochester, is coauthor or coeditor of Vital Statistics on American Politics, 2005-2006; Comparing Democracies, 2d ed.; Controversies in Voting Behavior, 4th ed.; and Civic Education: What Makes Students Learn.◊His current research is on civic education and voting technologies.


Recent changes in partisan support suggest the beginning of a new group basis for the party coalitions. For the Republicans, the changes define group support more sharply than has been the case for many years—a combination of southern whites and a strong religious base of Catholics, regular church-goers, and Protestant fundamentalists. For Democrats, the changes are defined in terms of losses—of Catholic, union household, and regular church-going voters—not sufficiently offset by the increased support of women and the growing Hispanic population. The problem for Republicans is to maintain and enhance a heterogeneous coalition, including a fragile religious combination. The problem for Democrats is to find new coalition partners or regain support that the party has lost.