I was thinking about how the states in the southern US are reliably red at large despite their large black populations which votes for Democrats. I read about it and found that over 70% of white voters in Southern states vote for Republicans. By contrast, 90 to 96 percent of black voters vote for Democrats in the South. By the south, I will mean the sun belt states from South Carolina to Texas excluding Florida (kind of).

Is there any policy by either party that drove white southerners away from Democrats? And why is this?

  • It talks about how specifically in the south. White voters in places like New England and California are a lot more supportive of Democrats. Commented Aug 16, 2020 at 13:39

3 Answers 3


Nixon is credited with developing "the Southern strategy" of the Republican Party which is based on appeals to racism. Quoting from Wikipedia:

The Southern Strategy is generally believed to be the primary force that transformed the "Democratic South into a reliable GOP stronghold in presidential elections". Scholars generally emphasize the role of racial backlash in the realignment of southern voters. The viewpoint that the electoral realignment of the Republican party due to a race-driven Southern Strategy is also known as the "top-down" viewpoint. Most scholarship and analysts support this top-down viewpoint and claim that the political shift was due primarily to racial issues.


I imagine that the history of race relations in that region is the dominant factor, but economic factors are also likely to contribute. Consider these two statistics:

  1. The Southern states have some of the highest income inequality in the U.S.: enter image description here

  2. The income of African American households in the U.S. is about a third lower than that of White Americans.

So, it is conceivable that the politics of those states have become somewhat polarized due to economic inequality among the races.

  • It too bad the some of the usual suspects that VTC this question have made the offering of this academic study unavailable as an answer: [ aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/aer.20161413 ] . after 38 pages of data, the authors concluded: "We find essentially no role for either income growth in the region, or (non-race-related) policy preferences in explaining why Democrats "lost" the South" and "we conclude that defection among racially conservative whites just after te democrats introduce sweeping Civil Rights legislation explains virtually all of the party's losses in the region"
    – BobE
    Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 19:45
  • @BobE Interesting article. I agree that the economic effects are probably small. However 1) their confidence intervals are large which doesn't seem to warrant the strength of their conclusion and 2) there is likely to be collinearity between the racial and economic factors which their regressions fail to take into account. Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 21:07

The answer that is heard very often is that the passage of the Civil Rights Act by Lyndon Johnson drove southerners away from the Democratic party.The exception has been that Southerners have ran as Presidential candidates (Jimmy Carter in particular, and I believe the effect was true but not as extreme for Bill Clinton).

I believe "Southern Democrat" has a specific meaning, separate from being a Southerner who votes Democrat. I believe it was a political bloc.

Similar to the Civil Rights Act explanation, Democrats in the south, and in rural places too, often vote for candidates with "traditional and religious values".

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .