Last week, the Annenberg Public Policy Center released part of the results of its 2004 Election Survey, a national poll of registered voters. Last week's findings concerned party identification among registered voters, and the results may surprise those who think Democrats are dead in the South:
  • Maryland and West Virginia are the two most Democratic states in the country, measured by percentage of registered voters who identify as Democrats
  • Six of the 13 Southern states have more registered Democrats than Republicans.
  • Democrats dominate by bigger majorities in Democratic states than Republicans do in GOP states. Democrats have an average 6.2% edge over their GOP counterparts in Democratic states; Republicans only lead by an average of 3.4% in states where they are the majority.
  • Independents are strong in the South. In 10 out of 13 states, at least one out of five registered voters identify as independent. In four states, it was at least a quarter.
  • The heart of Republicanism is in the Midwest/West: Kansas, Nebraska and Utah are the most Republican states.
You can view the numbers in PDF form here.

A few thoughts on this. First, the numbers are clear that Democrats, as a party, haven't lost their appeal to voters in the South, or at least any more so than any other region of the country.

But of course, in the states where registered Democrats are a majority, or not far behind (only in Texas and Virginia do Republicans have more than a 3% edge), Republicans have often won the big state-wide races for national offices.

This takes progressives into deeper questions about what kinds of candidates can win in Southern states, and further, what it will take in Southern states to build up progressive political strength.

But for now, it's clear that merely having the numbers in terms of party affiliation isn't enough for Southern Democrats. In other words, the question isn't whether or not Democrats have a future in the South, but what kind of Democrats -- a distinction that often gets lost.