Late to the parade: Party switchers in contemporary US southern legislatures

Seth C. McKee, Antoine Yoshinaka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


We undertake an examination of southern state legislators who changed their party affiliation between 1992 and 2012. Not surprisingly, the vast majority went from being Democrats to Republicans, and this change has fuelled the dynamics at the national level by pulling the Republican Party further to the right and Democrats to the left. Hence, these are the incumbent party switchers we evaluate. With the use of constituency, electoral and contextual data on both switchers and non-switchers, we assess which factors influence the likelihood that a Democratic office-holder will switch to the GOP (Grand Old Party). We find that the typical demographic correlates of southern Republicanism, such as race and education, do indeed have a significant effect on the probability of the GOP label being adopted. In addition, the disruptive effect of redistricting induces switches, as does a change in the party of the elected governor. However, electoral pressure does not have an independent effect on party switching. Our results suggest that party switching is a response to several district-level factors as well as the broader political context within the state. We conclude with a discussion of why increasing partisan polarization and the maturation of the southern GOP is likely to forestall future party switching.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)957-969
Number of pages13
JournalParty Politics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015


  • Legislators
  • USA
  • party switching
  • statistical analysis
  • testing competing theories


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