New Study Finds The KKK Was Instrumental In Switching Southern Voters From Democrats To Republicans


You’ve probably heard it from a conservative friend at one time or another: the KKK was founded by Democrats, and therefore it is Democrats, not Republicans, who are racists. Not only is the attempt to connect the KKK to the modern Democratic party a dubious one, a new study says that the KKK has had a large hand in reshaping the politics of the south, putting southerners solidly in the GOP camp.

A press release from the American Sociological Association on “Newswise” says that a new study finds that the KKK has had a “lasting impact” on politics in America. Specifically, the study, conducted by David Cunningham, chair of the Department of Sociology at Brandeis University, Rory McVeigh of Notre Dame, and Justin Farrell of Yale University, found that the KKK was instrumental in switching southern voters from Democrats to Republicans, beginning in the 1960s. The study also found that the KKK’s influence over southern politics has continued into the 21st century.

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According to the ASA’s press release, the researchers looked at ten southern states where the KKK was actively recruiting during the 1960’s. They examined the county voting records, and discovered that, in the presidential elections between 1960 and 2000, counties with active KKK chapters showed a “statistically significant increase in Republican voting compared to counties with no established KKK chapter.”

According to “Raw Story,” the study found that, in the election of 1964, there was high support for Republicans in counties where whites felt their economic interests threatened by black residents. The researchers also discovered that, between the candidacy of Richard Nixon in 1960, and the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, the increase in Republican voting was 3.7 percent higher in counties with a KKK chapter than in non-KKK counties.

KKK influence continues to be felt, decades after the decline of the organization in the south.

The researchers also discovered that, in the 1992 election, those who held conservative attitudes about race were more likely to vote Republican, but only in counties where the KKK had maintained an organized presence during the 1960’s. Professor Cunningham thinks that the KKK’s influence not only affected the switch in party loyalties in the south during the 1960’s, but also contributed directly to the political polarization of current times.

The Klan’s efforts to link voting behavior to its social agenda in the 1960s disrupted long-established voting patterns in the South. The fact that such efforts continued to predict partisan allegiances decades later demonstrates how the impact of a social movement can endure long after the movement itself has declined, as well as providing a new explanation of political polarization in the U.S.

When he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law, President Lyndon Johnson reportedly said to his aide, Bill Moyers, “We have lost the south for a generation.” That generation has now turned into two generations, and Republican control of southern politics may continue to be the case for several more generations. Thanks to this study, it appears that the south’s movement into the Republican camp was not a totally organic event, but instead had some help from the KKK, a group that some conservatives love to try and connect to Democrats.

H/T: Raw Story| Image courtesy: Unfinished Lives

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