Election Results '80

By Steve Suitts

Vol. 3, No. 2, 1981, pp. 6-9

The Rise of Southern Suburban Politics

Ronald Reagan's victory in 10 Southern states, leaving the President only his native state, showed in fact a divided south—with Black voters overwhelmingly supporting Carter and an enormous number of Whites voting for Reagan.

Although their candidate lost, Southern Blacks' clear choice was Jimmy Carter. In 78 targeted predominantly Black precincts in nine southern states (excluding Arkansas and Texas) Carter received more than 86 percent of the vote. Both urban and rural Black support for the Democratic presidential ticket was strong throughout the region. In fact, more than two out of three of all the Black boxes surveyed showed Carter with better than 90 percent of the vote.

On this basis of precincts' patterns, nine out of 10 Black southern voters cast their ballot for Carter. This degree of support exceeded national projections of 80 percent Black support for Carter.

Selected county returns confirm the depth and breadth of Carter's support among Southern Blacks. Of five Deep Southern states surveyed (North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia) Carter lost only three majority Black populated counties among the more than 70—and those three were all in Mississippi. Within the same states, only nine of more than 130 counties with at least 40 percent Black population failed to give a majority of their votes to Carter.

The overall White voting patterns show the opposite trend: Southern Whites voted in large numbers to defeat Carter. In the 23 predominantly White—largely urban precincts in nine states surveyed in the South, election returns show Reagan with almost 70 percent of the vote. In fact, Carter failed to carry a single box within the targeted precincts.

Southern White voters were not for Reagan as uniformly as Blacks were for Carter. The Democratic presidential ticket carried, for example, 20 of the 50 mostly rural counties in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi which have more than 90 percent White population.

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Final Count: Black/White Choices for President

In November, Jimmy Carter lost the South in the suburbs. Unlike 1976, the 1980 Presidential election shows Carter's failures and Reagan's strengths in the Southern metropolitan areas, especially outside the central city.

This Democratic slippage in the South's presidential politics is nothing brand new. As far back as 1968, when George Wallace campaigned as a third party candidate, the Democratic party's candidate has been unable to deliver a majority vote in the South nor more than one Southern state's majority except in 1976 (Chart 1).

In most Southern states Reagan carried the balance of the suburban counties. In Alabama, Mobile and suburban Baldwin counties voted Republican as did the three other expanding suburban areas—Dothan (Houston and Dale counties), Birmingham (Tuscaloosa, Shelby, Jefferson, St. Clair, Blount, and Walker counties) and Montgomery (Montgomery, Autauga, and Elmore counties).

A close analysis of Louisiana, South Carolina, and Texas illustrate how Reagan won (Chart 2). In a breakdown of the voting returns by counties in the metropolitan areas (as defined by the 1970 U.S. Census Bureau) of these states, the voters in all suburban counties except one, gave Reagan a majority. Only in the metro counties where a central city is located did Reagan fail to pick up overall voter approval.

In the New Orleans area, for example, the three suburban parishes surrounding the city delivered more than 60 percent of the vote for Reagan while only 40 percent of the New Orleans' parish voted for him. In South Carolina, the central city vote did not even reduce markedly Reagan's strength. All metro counties supported the Republican president.

In Texas the only suburban county to vote for Carter was San Patricio outside of Corpus Christi. Because it is small, rural and has a significant Hispanic population, San Patricio is hardly a typical suburban county and, hence does not really defy the pattern of suburban support for Reagan.

Republican strength in these counties made the difference often in the final state returns (Chart 3). The ten metro parishes in Louisiana gave the new president more than half his total state's support. The seven South Carolina counties—among the state's forty-six—delivered almost half the Republican president's votes and in Texas the metropolitan counties' Reagan votes constituted three-fourths of the state's total.

The Southern pattern of Reagan's voting strength is convincing. Although the margins of victory for the Republican party in each Southern state were not overwhelming, Republicans have captured the support of those Southerners living outside of central cities and in suburban areas—where the South's population is steadily growing. It is what professionals in the business of vote getting call "a growth pattern" and the basis for the Republican hopes for 1984 in the South.

More than two out of three of all the Black boxes surveyed showed Carter with better that 90 percent of the vote.


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Chart 1
Presidential Elections in the South, 1968-1980
State Choices in 11 Southern States

State 1968 1972 1976 1980
Alabama Wallace(I) Nixon (R) Carter (D) Reagan (R)
Arkansas Wallace(I) Nixon (R) Carter (D) Reagan (R)
Florida Nixon (R) Nixon (R) Carter (D) Reagan (R)
Georgia Wallace(I) Nixon (R) Carter (D) Carter (D)
Louisiana Wallace(I) Nixon (R) Carter (D) Reagan (R)
Mississippi Wallace(I) Nixon (R) Carter (D) Reagan (R)
North Carolina Nixon (R) Nixon (R) Carter (D) Reagan (R)
South Carolina Nixon (R) Nixon (R) Carter (D) Reagan (R)
Tennessee Nixon (R) Nixon (R) Carter (D) Reagan (R)
Texas Humphrey (D) Nixon (R) Carter (D) Reagan (R)
Virginia Nixon (R) Nixon (R) Carter (D) Reagan (R)

Chart 3
Reagan Votes in Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas (SMSA)As Percentage of Reagan's Total States Vote

State % of Reagan's Total Vote
Louisiana SMSA's 53.7%
South Carolina SMSA's 47.7%
Texas 75.5%

Chart 2
Reagan Votes in Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas of 3 Southern States
Urban and Suburban Voting Patterns in 1980 Election

SMSA/Counties % of Total Votes for Reagan No. of Reagan Voters
Baton Rouge
*East Baton Rouge 52.9% 60,032
Lafayette 58.7% 30,812
Lake Charles
*Calcasieu 42.5% 27,360
*Quachita 63.5% 29,701
New Orleans
Jefferson 64.2% 99,915
*Orleans 39.8% 73,712
St. Bernard 61.3% 19,410
St. Tammany 64.0% 27,214
*Bossier 62.8% 16,515
Caddo 55.7% 43,085
TOTAL FOR SMSA's 53.7% 427,760
South Carolina
Berkeley 55.2% 12,510
*Charleston 61.1% 60,894
Aiken 57.7% 18,528
Lexington 68.4% 28,271
*Richland 50.5% 36,351
*Greenville 57.8% 46,198
*Pickens 53.8.% 9,517
TOTAL FOR SMSA's 58.1% 212,269
*Jones 47.2% 2,777
Taylor 62.0% 22,943
*Potter 60.9% 16,327
Randall 73.7% 23,136
*Travis 49.4% 73,151
*Jefferson 43.4% 36,763
Liberty 51.3% 7,470
Brownsville-Harlingten-San Benito
*Cameron 47.6% 22,041
Bryan-College Station
*Brazos 60.3% 17,798
Corpus Christi
*Nueces 45.6% 37,276
San Patricio 46.6% 7,662
Dallas-Fort Worth
Collin 67.9% 36,559
*Dallas 65.8% 359,518
Denton 59.9% 29,908
Ellis 51.3 10,050
Grayson 53.7% 16,811
Johnson 51.7% 11,411
*Kaufman 46.8% 5,081
Rockwall 65.3% 4,036
*Tarrant 56.9% 173,466
El Paso
*El Paso 53.5% 53,276
Brazoria 58.1% 27,614
Chambers 54.1% 3,140
Fort Bend 65.9% 24,914
*Harris 58.0% 416,965
Montgomery 65.6% 26,237
*Webb 30.8 5,421
*Lubbock 68.8% 46,711
*Hidalgo 41.8% 25,499
Ector 72.4% 25,846
*Midland 76.6% 25,027
San Angelo
Tom Green 60.1% 15,840
San Antonio
*Bexar 49.9% 148,126
Guadalupe 64.2% 9,901
*Bowie 54.8% 7,804
*McLennan 53.1% 30,026
Wichita Falls
Archer 54.8% 7,804
*Wichita 55.0% 22,884
TOTAL FOR SMSA's 57.3% 1,837,357
* Central City Counties