Electoral Incongruence and Delayed Republican Gains in Southern State Legislatures

Adam Myers

Abstract


This paper investigates the impact of electoral incongruence – the tendency of Democratic state legislative candidates to perform better than their co-partisans in higher-level races – on partisan control of southern legislative chambers in the 1990s and 2000s. Using precinct-level data from five southern states, I examine incongruence between presidential and state house election results and show how such incongruence delayed the Republican consolidation of power in southern legislatures during this period. I then develop and test an account of electoral incongruence focusing on the tendency of older white southerners and those living in rural areas to split their tickets across state and federal offices, particularly when given the option of voting for conservative Democratic legislative incumbents. Lastly, I explore possible reasons for electoral incongruence’s recent decline. The results of the paper provide important insights concerning the delayed Republican takeover of southern legislatures, an underexplored aspect of southern partisan change. They also speak to longstanding questions in the state politics literature about the extent of autonomy that state party systems can hope to enjoy in a highly nationalized era.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15763/issn.2374-779X.2016.35.2.73-102

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