Implications of Regional Voting Differences
These regional divisions have several effects on U.S. presidential elections. First, the parties seek geographically balanced tickets (Swauger 1980). Democrats, knowing that they already have strong support in the Northeast, are hesitant to place a Northeasterner on their party’s ticket. Bill Clinton, an Arkansas native, and Al Gore, a senator from Tennessee, were nominated to the Democratic ticket in 1992 in an effort to win back some of the southern states, which were increasingly going Republican. This worked to some degree, as Clinton was able to capture Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Georgia in 1992 and Arkansas, Tennessee, and Louisiana in 1996. It did not work as well for Al Gore in his bid for the presidency in 2000, as he lost every Southern state, including his home state of Tennessee (CNN 2000). A possible reason for this may be that his running mate was Connecticut’s Senator Joe Lieberman. Picking Lieberman, a Jew and a Northeasterner, likely hurt Gore as Jews and Northeasterners were likely to vote Democratic anyway.
Regional divisions also effect where the candidates campaign prior to the election. Candidates are unlikely to spend time in regions they feel that they cannot win and equally unlikely to spend time in regions in which they feel they already have won. They instead focus on swing regions, like the Midwest, and “toss-up” states. These toss-up states are often located on the border between regions, containing characteristics of two or more regions. In 2000, some examples of the toss-up states were Florida (not part of the core south), Tennessee (between the South and Midwest), Pennsylvania (between the Northeast and Midwest) Missouri (between the South, Midwest, and Mountain West, and Iowa (between the Midwest and Mountain West). Many states, especially those within the core of a region, are thus neglected by campaigns (Swauger 1980).
The regional voting divisions in presidential elections also point to deeper divisions between these regions. Since the origins of the United States, animosity has existed between the North and the South. This animosity reached its breaking point in the Civil War, but almost 140 years later, it still exists today. Voters in the North, as well as voters on West Coast, place an emphasis on “environmental, consumer, and lifestyle issues” (Speel 1999, 169). Voters in the South and Mountain West, on the other hand, focus on “patriotism, high defense spending, and the promotion of conservative religious values” (Speel 1999, 169). Northeasterners and those living on the West Coast are likely to view Southerners negatively. “White Southerners are, until proven otherwise, traditional, backwards, obsessed with the past, friendly, violent, racist, and polite” (Ayers et al, 1996, 66). Those in the South and Mountain West are likely to view those in the Northeast and West Coast negatively, labeling them as liberal and immoral (Speel 1999).
These conflicts between regions manifest themselves in the observed voting patterns. Historical as well as contemporary voting patterns show that a political party cannot be successful in both the North and the South. “If a political party is going to represent these Northern Yankees with their liberal views, social tolerance, airs of cultural superiority, and capitalist dominance, the South wants a different party to vote for. And if a political party is going to represent Southern views on the preservation of a traditional social order, militarism, perceived tolerance for prejudice, and cultural lack of sophistication, then those Northern Yankees are going to cast their vote elsewhere” (Speel 1999, 173).
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Last Updated: March 28, 2005