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Are Republicans Now Officially a Southern Party? Plus a Modest Proposal for Reporting Poll Data

- September 19, 2009

I found the following somewhat stunning graph on “Steve Benen’s Political Animal blog”:http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2009_09/020010.php at the “Washington Monthly”:http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/; Bremen created the graph from data from the Daily Kos Weekly State of the Nation Poll, which can be found “here”:http://www.dailykos.com/weeklypoll/2009/9/1.

GOP_by_region.png

I have no _a priori_ knowledge about the reliability of the Daily Kos poll, but even if it had a generally left or right wing bias, that still shouldn’t affect the variation across regions. While I am not surprised that the Republican party is more popular in the South than other regions, the starkness of this distinction is beyond what I had expected. Moreover, while I would have expected the Republican party to be unpopular in the Northeast, I did not expect such similar numbers from the West and Midwest. Quite seriously, if I saw this type of regional distribution of support for a political party in a country like Slovakia, I would assume the party represented an ethnic minority. For comparison’s sake, here is the vote share received by the Hungarian Coalition – an ethnic minority party – by region in the “2006 Slovak parliamentary election”:http://www.electoralgeography.com/en/countries/s/slovakia/2006-legislative-elections-slovakia.html:

Slovakia_2006.png

“Click here for a larger (and more legible) version of the table.”:https://themonkeycage.org/Slovakia_2006.png

With all this mind, my question for those who study public opinion and partisanship in the United States is whether this distribution of regional support is unique in the modern postwar era. Has there ever been a period of time when one of the parties was this disliked across so much of the country while enjoying such proportionately stronger support in one region of the country? Either way, what should we infer about the future of the Republican party from this distribution of support?

One other interesting point from the Daily Kos data: despite “all the noise”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/18/AR2009091800337.html about Obama’s “falling approval ratings”:http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/54252, outside of the South of 82% of those in the Northeast have a favorable view of Obama (vs. 10% having an unfavorable view), 62% have a favorable view (vs. 31%) in the Midwest, and 59% (vs. 34%) have a favorable view in the West. It is only in the South, where 67% (!) have an unfavorable view of the president (vs. 27% holding a favorable view) that Obama appears to have a serious problem. Again, the regional distribution is quite dramatic.

Taken together, I wonder if we’ve hit the point where the mainstream media ought to be reporting support for the president, congress, political parties, etc. not in terms of the country as a whole, but rather by providing two numbers: support in the South _and_ support in the rest of the country excluding the South?