Sorting Dixie

The Changing Profile of Southern Presidential Primary Electorates

Authored by: Seth C. McKee

Routledge Handbook of Primary Elections

Print publication date:  February  2018
Online publication date:  February  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138684089
eBook ISBN: 9781315544182
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter takes a detailed look at changes in the demographic composition of voters participating in Democratic and Republican presidential primaries in the American South 1 from 1988 to 2016. Over this span of eight presidential elections, the sorting of southerners into the major party primaries has constituted one of the most palpable and electorally consequential political transformations in American history. The well-known contemporary realignment of white southerners to the Grand Old Party (GOP) is perhaps most evident through an examination of the demography of presidential primary voters. Likewise, the changing nature of the coalition of Democratic primary voters provides a stark contrast since many of these electorates are now majority black. With the use of exit poll data, the major changes to the composition of Democratic and Republican primary electorates are demonstrated and analyzed. The passing of the old Democratic Solid South to the new Republican-dominant Dixie emerges in plain sight by chronicling the vast alterations in the makeup of southerners who participate in presidential primary contests.

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