NPR's On The Media

Polls, Southerners, and Republicans


In the story “The Lure of Reporting About Southern Stereotypes” there were many voices condemning the over reporting of polls that depicted southern republican voters as backwards on cultural and social issues. Daily Beast contributor Michel Codel argued that the polls were a mute point because they don’t differ significantly from national views.  She concedes that the polls “Show how socially conservative southerners are compared to other sections of the country” but then goes on to say “40% are strict creationists and another close to 40% believe in intelligent design”. I don’t know where she got those numbers from but they seem off to me because that would leave only 20% of people who believe in evolution which is a number that is not compatible with my reality.

Still the same pollsters that did the Mississippi and Alabama polls found that only half believe in evolution. Codel argues that this is not significantly different from the Mississippi and Alabama numbers. Even if you agree with that, the issue doesn’t go away. What I take from the poll is not how the south differs from other regions on these issues; it is how they differ from me. I know very few people who refute evolution and I can’t think of a single person I know who believe that interracial marriage should be illegal. From my stand point these views are ludicrous. I frankly don’t care what other regions think. If Michel Codel’s point is that these numbers don’t depict the south’s backwardness on many social issues because they are consistent with the rest of America then I’d have to conclude that the numbers depict America’s social backwardness. Saying the south isn’t all that different from the rest of America doesn’t make the problem go away, it makes it bigger.

With that said I believe the story didn’t do an adequate job of depicting the majority of these polls (Mississippi, Alabama, and Illinois) directed toward likely republican voters. Michel touched on it a little at the end with her assertion that the country may indeed be more red and blue then Obama would have us believe. Obama being a Muslim and disbelief in evolution are practically core values for some republicans. They wouldn’t like to admit it but these are republican campaign tactics so it is no wonder that likely republican voters believe them in high concentrations.

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