Demographics as political destiny

By Razib Khan | November 7, 2010 4:30 pm

From The New York Times, White Democrats Lose More Ground in South:

There are other signs that the realignment might not be permanent. Growing Latino populations in Florida and Texas, and in Georgia and South Carolina, could rearrange the political map again before too long.

And then there is the curious case of North Carolina. While Republicans racked up historic victories in state races on Tuesday, seven of the state’s eight Democratic congressmen survived challenges, including Heath Shuler, a young Blue Dog elected in 2006.

That, oddly enough, leaves North Carolina with one of the most Democratic Congressional delegations outside of the Northeast.

boraThis an illustration of the maxim that differences among white people are not worth comment, even if they have more impact than differences between racial minorities and whites. At some point Latinos in states in the South aside from Texas and Florida will be numerous enough to be significant, but right now they’re not there yet. But what about Northern transplants? Or those from more exotic locales? If they’re white Northerners who resettle in the Research Triangle of North Carolina aren’t worth mentioning explicitly I guess, but that’s certainly a relatively parsimonious explanation for why North Carolina in particular seems to have weathered the “Republican wave” rather well. Just as Latinos may have given Democrats a demographic booster-shot out West, in North Carolina the addition of Northern transplants who operate somewhat outside of the traditional black-white cultural divide in the South may have bolstered the Democrats.

To make this more concrete, I’ve taken the pop, soda and coke data for Southern states and created ratios of each to the total sum of the three. Below is a bar graph which shows the values for all three by state:


The high values for “pop” in Kentucky and Oklahoma are pointers to the fact that these aren’t “pure” Southern states. Contrast with Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. These are the “Deep South” states which have been least touched by the demographic and social forces which characterize the “New South.” Notice Virginia and North Carolina. There is probably a geographic cline which explains the high value for soda here, but I suspect part of it is simply the large number of Northern transplants in both states.

Image Credit: Bora Zivkovic

MORE ABOUT: Culture, Politics

Comments (11)

  1. dave

    I worked in the Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) for a # of years. Nice place. Cary is the upscale town in the middle which was basically created by the Research Triangle. Cary is also known as Containment Area for Relocated Yankees. Part of what makes the Triangle interesting is you have this cosmopolitan educated class society being built on top of the old black-white bicultural society of the South. The Triangle area is also one of the few parts of the South with more than a negligible Asian population. Cary actually has more Asians (8%) than blacks (6%).

  2. Doug1

    Cary actually has more Asians (8%) than blacks (6%).

    Always a good thing.

  3. Sandgroper

    LOL! Why did you use a photo of Bora looking like he was getting loaded?

    Super nice and helpful man. I hope things are good for him.

    I get soda. I get pop. I get soda-pop. What I don’t get is why someone would refer to all carbonated soft drinks as coke. Or have I got that wrong?

  4. What a classy photo of Bora you’ve chosen!

    Sandgroper, I imagine it is the same logic that gets people to refer to all facial tissues as ‘Kleenex’ or all cotton swabs as ‘Q-tips’.

  5. traveling boho

    I don’t think your hypothesis about the pop/soda split in Kentucky, where I grew up, is right. If you look at the map from your 6/15/08 post, you’ll notice that pop rules in the eastern part of the state, which is in the central Appalachian highlands. This is also true of West Virginia and western Virginia which are also mountainous regions. Coke is dominant in the west, which is more rolling farm country.

    One of the reasons “coke” became dominant in most of the South was their early monopoly of the cola market. Early on, the only place to get soda was at the drugstore soda fountain, which Coca-Cola dominated. Other brands only became widely available with the later development of bottling. But by then “coke” was firmly in place.

    My theory about why this wasn’t so in the central Appalachian highlands is based on conversations with my grandfather who grew up in eastern Kentucky in the 1920s and 1930s. Now most counties apparently did have a drugstore soda fountain, but only in the largest towns in the county. Due to the topography, however, there were many people who almost never went into town. So they might never even have heard of soda until bottling started. And then the only way they got was from horse-drawn wagon peddlers and later, from coal mine company stores. So when soda became available Coca-cola was not the dominant brand. Instead they had their choice of several competing brands. That might be the reason “coke” never became the generic term for soda in that region.

  6. sam jackson jr

    “3. Doug1 Says:
    November 7th, 2010 at 8:06 pm
    Cary actually has more Asians (8%) than blacks (6%).

    Always a good thing.”

    lovely comment.

  7. Sandgroper

    Michelle, thank you for such an elegant and crystal clear explanation.

    travelling boho, thank you also, sir. As a kid from the Australian bush watching old American movies, I could never get what a “drug store soda fountain” was. Frankly, I still can’t.

    But then, the first time I tasted pizza was when I was 23 years old. Manna from Heaven.

    First time I tasted coffee (Nescafe instant), I was 12. Nectar of the Gods.

    You guys get all the good stuff. I sooo wanted a BB gun when I was a kid. Nope, not in Oz.

    Hillary is in Oz right now – she said Australia is America’s best friend. I nearly wept. She’s got to be kidding, right, we’re tiny and irrelevant. But still, she said it.

  8. LOL – that is a picture of me reacting to the potency of slivovitz after ScienceOnline2010….agreed, not the most flattering image of me out on the Web 😉

  9. Insightful

    Hmmm, I see the racists have come out. (Referring to commentators Doug1 Says and his corroborator sam jackson jr…)


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Gene Expression

This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


See More


Edifying books

Collapse bottom bar