Alabama Presidential PVI by County 1944-2016

Picking up on a state-by-state analysis I began at Swing State Project before the 2012 elections, I will try my hand here, with results including 2012 and 2016. I will use Charlie Cook’s PVI when comparing counties. I know PVI itself is not the best way to gauge the partisan leanings of states, counties, or districts, but it can still be useful in making comparisons.

Here are the Cook PVIs I calculated, from 1944 to 2016.

As we all know, most of Alabama’s counties were much more Democratic than the national average in the “Solid South” years. Central Alabama around Birmingham was less Democratic than most of the state in these years because of some Appalachian and anti-secession attitudes, from “the Republic of” Winston County to Chilton County. The Republican trend spread to Jefferson County (Birmingham) itself as well as outside of Central Alabama to Dallas County (Selma), Montgomery (Montgomery), the Gulf counties Mobile (Mobile) and Baldwin, and a little in Houston County (Dothan) in the late 1950s, due to the option of “unpledged electors” on the ballot.

 photo AL PVI Diary 1_zpsvxqvfn5q.png

The option “unpledged” appeared on the ballot again in 1960, and the Republican trend continued in the aforementioned counties, turning Dallas, Montgomery, and Jefferson more Republican as per PVI. In the counties that were already trending Republican, the bottom fell out of Democratic numbers in 1964 as most of the counties flipped to R+ PVIs. The presence of the Tennessee Valley Authority in North Alabama kept most counties in that region in the D+ PVI range. The only blue county outside North Alabama in the 1964 map is heavily black and college county Macon (Tuskegee). Also-heavily black Bullock and Greene Counties joined Macon in 1968. Washington County, along with Mobile to the south, also trended slightly Democratic.

 photo AL PVI Diary 2_zpsgamr1skm.png

During the Nixon years, the racial divisions in Alabama began to become more apparent, with much of Central Alabama becoming very Republican, and North Alabama and the Florida counties beginning to trend that way. Carter temporarily stopped the bleeding, but the Reagan revolution would put an end to that for the foreseeable future. The Reagan revolution brought a rapid Republican trend in most counties in Alabama, resulting in many R+ counties in 1988 as the national margin went slightly less for Bush than for Reagan.

 photo AL PVI Diary 3_zpsuanrqqxn.png

In spite of two Southerners on the Democratic ticket in the 1990s, the Republican trend in Alabama continued, and the realignment of the counties, stalled in the Carter and early Bill Clinton years, picked up. North Alabama was the last holdout outside the Black Belt through 2000 probably because of the connections some voters there felt to the Tennessee Valley Authority and to Al Gore, who came from demographically similar Middle Tennessee.

 photo AL PVI Diary 4_zpsbljx01ww.png

The 2004 and 2008 elections saw the realignment pretty much consolidate, with the only Democratic counties for both elections in the Black Belt. Polarization continued into 2012 and 2016, with North Alabama catching up to most of the rest of the state, as memories of the Tennessee Valley Authority diminish with each passing day. Increasingly Democratic numbers from Birmingham made Jefferson the only county outside the Black Belt with a D+ PVI in 2016.

 photo AL PVI Diary 5_zpsmqs1po4o.png

Stop by The Elections Geek for more in-depth information on past elections.

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  • shamlet April 28, 2017 at 6:54 am

    This is interesting, thanks! I know about Winston County’s history as a Union bastion, but it’s still kind of amazing to see it stick out as one sore red thumb in a sea of blue in the early maps when the other mountain counties around it were still solid Dem. I also had no idea that Chilton was the second place to flip GOP. Any ideas why that might be? I’ve always thought it just another nondescript rural white county.

    R, MD-7. Process is more important than outcome.

    • Republican Michigander April 28, 2017 at 9:54 am

      My guess with Chilton County is that it’s white flight from Birmingham (Shelby County). That’s a guess.

      MI-08 - Michigan is a red state again. We need a 50 state strategy and an 83 county strategy.

      • shamlet April 28, 2017 at 10:01 am

        Shelby County is suburbs itself though (Birmingham is in Jefferson) and Chilton wouldn’t have gotten exurban development until the 90s or so at the earliest.

        R, MD-7. Process is more important than outcome.

        • Republican Michigander April 28, 2017 at 11:48 am

          I confused Shelby with Jefferson. I was thinking it was a D stronghold, but that’s probably due to Memphis TN.

          MI-08 - Michigan is a red state again. We need a 50 state strategy and an 83 county strategy.

          • shamlet April 28, 2017 at 11:55 am

            Yeah, Deep South suburban counties were usually the first to turn R (think Lexington SC for a good example) but this wasn’t one of them which left me confused.

            R, MD-7. Process is more important than outcome.

            • roguemapper April 28, 2017 at 1:35 pm

              George Wallace’s home county at the time if that helps. 😉

              Dem NC-11

              • shamlet April 28, 2017 at 3:12 pm

                Would make sense except the trend started when Wallace was a no-name State Rep. in Barbour County…

                R, MD-7. Process is more important than outcome.

                • roguemapper April 28, 2017 at 5:01 pm

                  You mean the 40s & 50s? That was a relic from the time when Clanton was a Populist Party stronghold. Most of them became progressive Republicans in the 1920s. Then in the 1960s they were joined by the Dixiecrats. Chilton County just happened to be at the confluence of that, along with Blount, St Clair, and Shelby. Note how that old Populist string stands out in subsequent decades? The reason why Chilton stands out from them before 1960 on this map is because the GOP was getting just above 40% while in the other three it was getting just below 40%.

                  Dem NC-11

                  • shamlet April 28, 2017 at 7:41 pm

                    Never knew that. Cool!

                    R, MD-7. Process is more important than outcome.

                  • Greyhound April 28, 2017 at 7:45 pm

                    Yeah, didn’t the South only get to the 98%+ “Solid” around the time the Populist party was threatening the Democrats with the prospect of a white-black poor voter coalition?

                    R, 26, CA-18. Anti-Anti-Trump

    • rdelbov April 28, 2017 at 5:25 pm

      Winston County’s most famous Republican was Frank Johnson Jr who as a federal judge was integrated many of Alabama’s public schools. This Eisenhower appointed judge was the judicial foe of George Wallace among D governors.

  • davybaby May 2, 2017 at 12:03 am

    In 1952, Adlai Stevenson’s choice of Alabama Sen. John Sparkman to be his running mate seemed to make little difference in Sparkman’s home state.

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