Electoral Incongruence and Delayed Republican Gains in Southern State Legislatures

Adam Myers


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.

Full Text:



Abramowitz, Alan I. and H. Gibbs Knotts. 2006. "Ideological Realignment in the American Electorate: A Comparison of Northern and Southern White Voters in the Pre-Reagan, Reagan, and Post-Reagan Eras." Politics and Policy 34(1): 94-108. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1747-1346.2006.00005.x

Aistrup, Joseph A. 1996. The southern Strategy Revisited: Republican Top-Down Advancement in the South. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press.

Barth, Jay. 1992. "Dual Partisanship in the South: Anachronism, or a Real Barrier to Republican Success in the Region?" Midsouth Political Science Journal 13: 487-500.

Bibby, John F. 1983. "Patterns in Midterm Gubernatorial and State Legislative Elections." Public Opinion 6: 41-46.

Brambor, Thomas, William Roberts Clark, and Matt Golder. 2006. "Understanding Interaction Models: Improving Empirical Analyses." Political Analysis 14: 63-82. https://doi.org/10.1093/pan/mpi014

Brown, Robert D. and John M. Bruce. 2002. "Political Parties in State and Nation: Party Advantage and Party Competition in a Federal Setting." Party Politics 8: 635-656. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354068802008006001

Brown, Robert D. and John M. Bruce. 2008. "Partisan-Ideological Divergence and Changing Party Fortunes in the States, 1968-2003: A Federal Perspective." Political Research Quarterly 61(4): 585-597. https://doi.org/10.1177/1065912908317795

Bullock, Charles S. 1988. "Creeping Realignment in the South." In The South's New Politics: Realignment and Dealignment, edited by R.H. Swansbrough and D.M. Brodsky, 220-237. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press.

Campbell, James E. 1986. "Presidentail Coattails and Midterm Losses in State Legislative Elections." American Political Science Review 80(1): 45-63. https://doi.org/10.2307/1957083

Carmines, Edward G. and Harold W. Stanley. 1990. "Ideological Realignment in the Contemporary South: Where Have All the Conservatives Gone?" In The Disappearing South: Studies in Regional Change and Continuity, edited by L.W. Moreland and T.A. Baker. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press.

Carson, Jamie L., Michael H. Crespin, Charles J. Finocchiaro, and David W. Rhode. 2007. "Redistricting and Party Polarization in the U.S. House of Representatives." American Politics Research 35(6): 878-904. https://doi.org/10.1177/1532673X07304263

Converse, Philip E. 1966. "On the Possibility of a Major Realignment in the South." In Elections and the Political Order, edited by A. Campbell. New York: John Wiley.

Gelman, Andrew and Jennifer Hill. 2007. Data Analysis Using Regression and Multilevel/Hierarchical Models. New York: Cambridge.

Gimpel, James G. 1995. National Elections and the Autonomy of State Party Systems. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Hadley, Charles D. 1985. "Dual Partisan Identification in the South." Journal of Politics 47: 254-268. https://doi.org/10.2307/2131075

Hillygus, D. Sunshine and Todd Shields. 2008. "Southern Discomfort? Regional Differences in Voter Decision Making in the 2000 Presidential Election." Presidential Studies Quarterly 38 (3): 506-520. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-5705.2008.02658.x

Key, V.O. 1956. American State Politics. New York: Knopf.

Klarner, Carl, William Berry, Thomas Carsey, Malcolm Jewell, Richard Niemi, Lynda Powell, and James Snyder. 2013. State Legislative Election Returns (1967-2013). ICPSR34297-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2013-01-11. doi:10.3886/ICPSR34297.v1. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR34297.v1

Knuckey, Jonathan. 2006. "Explaining Recent Changes in the Partisan Identifications of Southern Whites." Political Research Quarterly 59(1): 57-70. https://doi.org/10.1177/106591290605900106

Lublin, David. 2004. The Republican South: Democratization and Partisan Change. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Lublin, David, and D. Stephen Voss. 2001. "Federal Elections Project." American University, Washington, DC and the University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY.

McDonald, Michael P. 2014. "Presidential Vote within State Legislative Districts." State Politics and Policy Quarterly 14(2): 196-204. https://doi.org/10.1177/1532440014529291

McKee, Seth C. 2010. Republican Ascendancy in southern U.S. House Elections. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Petrocik, John R. 1987. "Realignment: New Party Coalitions and the Nationalization of the South." Journal of Politics 49(2): 347-375. https://doi.org/10.2307/2131305

Schaller, Thomas F. 2008. Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Shor, Boris and Nolan McCarty. 2011. "The Ideological Mapping of American Legislatures." American Political Science Review 105(3): 530-551. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0003055411000153

Stein, Robert M. 1990. "Economic Voting for Governor and U.S. Senator: The Electoral Consequences of Federalism." Journal of Politics 52(1): 29-53. https://doi.org/10.2307/2131418

Steenbergen, Marco R. and Bradford S. Jones. 2002. "Modeling Multilevel Data Structures." American Journal of Political Science 46(1): 218-237. https://doi.org/10.2307/3088424

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15763/issn.2374-7781.2016.35.2.73-102


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2016 Adam Myers

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.