This week, I wanted to take a look at the regional breakdowns in our State of the Nation poll. If you click through to check out our cross-tabs, you'll see that one way we parse results is by geography: Northeast, Midwest, South, and West. It's commonly assumed that "the South" is implacably hostile to Barack Obama, but what's remarkable is how similar the numbers are across different areas. For instance, here are Obama's aggregate job approvals over the last three polls (I combined them so that our samples wouldn't be too small for each sub-group):
Now, the N.E. gives Obama a +6 spread, while the South is -5—every politican would prefer the former, of course. But the gap, I think, is smaller than perceptions often suggest. Indeed, the southern numbers are almost identical to the midwestern numbers, an area where Democrats had deep problems last fall, no doubt—but again illustrative of the fact that the differences are not as great as you might expect.
When thinking about "the South" generically, it's important to remember that it's not a monolithic region. You have states like Virginia and North Carolina which have seen an influx of more liberal white residents, often from the Northeast; states like Georgia and Texas, where Hispanic growth is changing things rapidly; states of the traditional "Deep South" like Alabama and Mississippi, which still have very large black populations; and of course Florida, which is sui generis.
And all of these sorts of people are, of course, included in our national poll, which helps explain why the regional disparities are relatively minimal. On a state-by-state level, it's easy for, say, Hispanic votes in Texas or black votes in Mississippi to get drowned out by larger conservative voting majorities. But in a national poll, where everyone is aggregated at a level much broader than mere single states, these voices really add up. And they also go to show why Barack Obama was able to make inroads in the South last cycle, and why states like Georgia and eventually Texas will become competitive before long. Republicans, watch out.