Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Political Science

First Advisor

Todd Shaw


There are two research questions at the heart of this dissertation: Does the American South have a distinct political environment in comparison to other regions? If so, how does this distinction influence American politics? I argue that the American South has long been politically distinct from other regions in the United States. This southern ethos, this southern way of agrarian politics, is predicated on three factors- State Centered Federalism, Racial Conservatism, and Religious Conservatism. I consider these factors in a model I call “The Determinants of Southern Exceptionalism” or the D.S.E. Model. It views the American South as remaining distinctive throughout American political development relative to these three determinants.

This dissertation theorizes and analyzes each determinant and the nature of its distinction. I confine my analysis principally to the political attitudes, norms, behaviors, and institutions of the white south, because I presume white southerners and their exceptionalism is markedly different from that of African Americans. I identify key historical factors that support the distinct nature of each determinant in the American South and how said determinant produced a key feature of American political development. In addition, I empirically test the idea of Southern Exceptionalism within the mass electorate using American National Election Studies (ANES) data between the years 1996 and 2012. This test involves a comparing the political attitudes of southern citizens with those of citizens in other regions of the United States. The survey items selected to assess southern distinction will theoretically deploy from each determinant within my model. All of these items will be factor analyzed to ensure that the survey items are actually measuring the three constructs. Results indicate that each determinant of Southern Exceptionalism remains distinct within the American South.