Barack Obama and the South: Demography as electoral opportunity

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Barack Obama was more successful in the South in the 2008 election than many previous Democratic presidential nominees had been. While John McCain continued Republican dominance in the conservative region, it was a major breakthrough for a northern liberal Democrat, especially an African American from Illinois, to win three southern states and secure 55 electoral votes. Florida, North Carolina and Virginia were good opportunities for Obama because, demographically, they had come to resemble other large states outside the South. In these 'converging' southern states, the Latino and Asian communities had grown substantially. The percentage of college-educated Whites had increased and there had been large-scale migration from other regions of the country. The states that Obama won in the South were not as 'southern' as they once were. In some southern states, those called the 'neo-Confederate South' in this article, white support for Obama was less than John Kerry had received in 2004. This decline in white voting for the Democratic presidential nominee occurred despite the difficult economic times that enveloped the country in the months preceding the election, and the general unpopularity of the incumbent Republican administration headed by George W. Bush. Some of these states, like Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, had been among the most intransigent states in resisting the claims of the civil rights movement for social and political equality for African Americans in the 1950s and 1960s. In the future it may be more accurate to speak of more than one South, rather than refer to the region as an undifferentiated whole. © 2011 Taylor & Francis.

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Patterns of Prejudice

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