Deep Change in the Deep South?

March 12, 2012
Posted by Jay Livingston

The polling news today is that very few Republicans in Alabama and Mississippi (14% and 12%, respectively) think that President Obama is a Christian.  Three times as many think he’s a Muslim. (A pdf of the entire survey is here.)

The poll also finds that only about one in four Republicans in those states believe in evolution.  Five times that many flatly reject evolution, with about 10% “not sure.” 

The results I found most curious were the opinions on interracial marriage.  Alabama 21% thought it should be illegal, 67% thought it should be legal; in Mississippi,  29% illegal, 54% legal.  None of the news stories I looked on this noted that when the same pollsters (Public Policy Polling) asked the same question of Mississippi Republicans less than a year ago, the results were very different.  A plurality thought it should be illegal.
  (My post on that poll is here.)

The margin of error is 4% (N = 600), so the 15-point swing supposedly reflects a real change.  But I’m skeptical.  What could account for such a large change if not sampling variation?  Did the GOP organize mass screenings of “The Help” and shame some of their number into allowing that maybe Loving v. Virginia wasn’t a mistake after all? Did the Heidi Klum - Seal breakup make it OK?   I can’t come up with even a dubiously speculative explanation.

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