Race and New Southern Politics (2021-2022)


In 1949, V.O. Key argued that a desire to maintain the racial order stifled political competition and redistributive policies in the South, making the region an uncompetitive authoritarian enclave. Twenty years later, the “Old South” transformed, thanks to widespread political realignment driven by the Republican Party’s “Southern Strategy” and the social movements of the 1960s. 

During this time, researchers Donald Matthews and James Prothro conducted a regionally representative survey of the South’s racial attitudes toward electoral and social movements, protest participation and residential context. Their work emphasized the changing nature of the “New South” where increased protections against discrimination showed promise toward changing the political and socioeconomic landscape of the South. Since then, many scholars have assessed the Southern political landscape, but no work has attempted to replicate and extend the work of Matthews and Prothro to assess the political landscape and racial attitudes that make up the South of today.

Project Description

This project will replicate and extend Matthews and Prothro to study the “New South” and will investigate the effects of Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests today.

Matthews and Prothro used representative surveys of Blacks and whites across counties in the South, conducted in 1961, to estimate voter turnout, campaign participation, protest participation, social networks and racial and political attitudes. This team will collect and analyze data to determine how these variables have changed. Building on a representative survey of 3,000 residents conducted in July 2020, team members will acquire additional data such as validated vote files to see if respondents voted in the 2020 presidential election.

Next, the team will build a dataset with two components. One will measure protest activity, both during the summer of 2020 as part of the Black Lives Matter movement (and counter-protests) and during the civil rights movement in the 1960s. The other will extend the Matthews and Prothro census dataset through the latest available data. The team will link both protest activities and the census datasets to the 2020 survey data via county-level matching.

Finally, the team will conduct two analyses that will be written up for submission to two journals. First, team members will analyze changes from 1961 to 2021 in southern public opinion regarding racial attitudes, public policies and political preferences. Next, they will analyze the effects of Black Lives Matter on confederate statue removal, political participation, trust in the police and belief in racism as a problem and compare those effects to civil rights activities in 1961.

Learn more about this project team by viewing the team's video.

Anticipated Outputs

Edited volume of original research; two journal articles; public-facing article; publicly accessible dataset

Student Opportunities

Ideally, this project team will be comprised of 6 graduate students and 6 undergraduate students. Interested students will likely be from sociology, psychology, African-American studies, political science, computer science, data science and statistic majors and have interest in race and ethnicity. Students with historical perspectives and interest in the study of historical southern politics and the study of race in a historical perspective are also a great addition. Given that part of this project involves data collection, manipulation and organization, students with experience working with quantitative datasets and conducting web scraping and data manipulation are welcome.

Groups of students will be split into subteams and each subteam will have independent meetings weekly. One team will focus on the replication and extension and one team will focus on BLM’s effects on contemporary political attitudes and behaviors. Some students will be able to work on literature reviews while others work on building and verifying BLM protest databases.

Undergraduates will receive an opportunity to witness and be involved in research conducted from beginning to end, culminating in a publication opportunity. This publication opportunity is in peer-reviewed academic journals and public-facing journalistic outlets like the Washington Post. In addition, students will get exposure to quantitative statistical analysis, database maintenance and coding in statistical software languages like R.

Graduate students will get an opportunity to lead a research team of undergraduates and receive multiple publication opportunities. In addition, they can gain access to a valuable dataset with the opportunity to pursue their own research projects using this data.

Alexandra Cooper and Arvind Krishnamurthy will serve as project managers. 

This Team in the News

Making the Most of Duke, Summer 2021


Fall 2021 – Spring 2022

  • Fall 2021: Build and verify contemporary BLM protest dataset and civil rights protest datasets; finalize data cleaning and conduct data analysis
  • Spring 2022: Write and submit journal articles and opinion piece


Academic credit available for fall and spring semesters


Image: The vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have, by Thomas Cizauskas, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have.

Team Leaders

  • John Aldrich, Arts & Sciences-Political Science
  • Alexandra Cooper, Social Science Research Institute
  • Ashley Jardina, Arts & Sciences-Political Science
  • Arvind Krishnamurthy, Trinity–Political Science–Ph.D. Student
  • Joshua Lerner, Arts & Sciences-Political Science

/graduate Team Members

  • Jared Clemons, Political Science-PHD
  • Edgar Cook II, Political Science-PHD
  • Miguel Martinez, Political Science-PHD
  • Leann Mclaren, Political Science-PHD
  • Jasmine Smith, Political Science-PHD

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Wyatt Bui, Public Policy Studies (AB)

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Kyle Endres, University of Northern Iowa
  • Michael Greenberger, UNC-Chapel Hill–Political Science–Ph.D. Student