Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Schraufnagel, Scot

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Political Science


There has been substantial literature concerning the effect the Republican southern strategy had on the Southern voting realignment following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This literature has singularly focused on the role of race issues as a wedge disrupting the Southern Democratic majority. During the early stages of this process race did play an integral role, but closer to modernity, the emergence of religious issues serves as a better causal mechanism that has been largely overlooked. Meaning that as racial issues became less salient and palatable in nationwide presidential elections, the Republican Party strategically incorporated social issues with strong religious connotations into their party platform to pander to former Southern Democrats. This maneuver allowed the Republican Party to maintain their newly formed Southern coalition without alienating the rest of their voting base. The emphasis on these highly salient religious issues also provides a possible narrative for why poor voters in the South appear to vote against their own economic interest by instead voting based on their religious identity which is so integral in Southern culture. In order to determine this relationship, a list of religiously charged terms was constructed and their occurrences were counted within the 1952-2016 presidential platforms for both the Democratic and Republican Party. The key explanatory variable is the difference between Republican and Democratic religious terms for each of these election year party platforms. This Republican Religious Differential was measured in relation to the Republican Presidential vote share during each corresponding election in the eleven former states of the Confederacy to provide empirical evidence for this historical analysis.


52 pages




Northern Illinois University

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