Southern Parties and Elections: Studies in Regional Political Change

By Robert P. Steed; Laurence W. Moreland et al. | Go to book overview

Yet we also noted extensive partisan malleability in our data. The halving of the Democratic lead among the die-hard 1908-1939 cohort, the shift of the 1940-1963 cohort toward the Republicans (equaling the shift of the 1908-1939 cohort among native southern whites and surpassing the comparable shift among native northern whites), and the continued erosion of Democratic loyalties among southerners long after the turbulent 1960s could be interpreted as evidence for the short-term responsiveness of party identification. We thus contend, after reviewing the relationships between age and partisanship over four decades, that these "large pieces of temporal evidence pertaining to stability and change"49 cannot convincingly discriminate among competing notions of partisanship.


Conclusion

This chapter reexamined the shifting patterns between age and partisanship, paying particular attention to periodization and the South/non-South contrast. The aggregate nature of cohort analyses, suggestive though they are for comprehending the dynamics of partisan change, cannot definitively discriminate between competing notions of partisanship. Whether partisanship is a standing decision or a running tally will have to be decided by other means on other grounds.

Studying birth-year cohorts of native southern and nonsouthern whites, we found that the long-recognized "dealignment" in the nation concealed important regional differences--the decline in the levels of partisanship occurred earlier, developed faster, and went deeper in the South than in the non-South. These distinctive regional patterns call into question the labeling of the 1952-1964 period as a steady-state equilibrium in the partisanship of native southern whites.

Several implications flow from noting that the compelling evidence of period effects are found among native southern whites. First, this finding underscores an irony: partisan change in the South has been mainly discussed in generational terms. Second, this finding clarifies some aspects of the debate on the relative contributions of generational and period effects in explaining partisan change in the nation. Third, this finding argues against the practice of merging all American whites to understand the dynamics of partisanship in previous decades.

Perhaps most aggregates could be subdivided into groups for which significant relationships differed. One could quibble that questioning the steady-state partisan period label by distinguishing southern and nonsouthern native whites merely illustrates this point, thus minimizing the significance of the regional contrasts. Yet the 1952-1964 period was not a quiescent one for black partisanship. The suspicion is strong that black

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