Graduation Year

2005

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Political Science

Major Professor

Darryl G. Paulson, Ph.D.

Keywords

Florida politics, Elections, Partisanship, Presidency, Bellwether, State public opinion, Campaign strategy, Electoral college

Abstract

The presidential contest of 1952 established a new trajectory for Florida politics. This pivotal election reversed decades of Democratic dominance and signified the beginning of presidential Republicanism in the state. Elections in the second half of the 20th century provided evidence of an increasingly favorable environment for Republican nominees. During this period Democrats were limited to carrying the state's electoral votes three times. GOP presidential ascendancy in Florida was augmented by partisan conversion and the disproportionate in-migration of white Northerners following World War II. Contrary to unrivaled 1980s support, which created an anchor in a new core Southern Republican electoral bloc, the 1990s restoration of competitiveness highlighted voter fluidity. This trend was exemplified by a virtual tie in the 2000 election. This paper confirms an atypical regional diffusion of Republican presidential dominance attributable to demographics. Contemporary Florida elections have been profoundly altered by an older population, increasing diversity due to immigration, and the erosion of Southern culture. Unlike intensifying national sectionalism, Florida has been classified as a "too close to call" during most of the past four presidential campaigns. A unique partisan balance is a component of a demographic profile mirroring the nation. Steady population growth has gradually positioned Florida as an unexpected presidential bellwether. The longevity of highly competitive national elections will continue to be primarily dependent on the partisan inclinations of newcomers.

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