Politics & Polls #10: Race & Party Politics

Sep 08 2016
By Julian Zelizer & Sam Wang (Produced by Bonelys Rosado and B. Rose Kelly)
Source Woodrow Wilson School

In one of the most powerful transformations in the history of American politics, African Americans shifted loyalties to the Democratic Party while Republicans became the party of racial conservatism.

How and why did this happen? Did certain moments in history cause this bipartisan ‘racial realignment?’ How has this realignment led to the political polarization of 2016?

In episode 10 of Politics and Polls, professors Julian Zelizer and Sam Wang interview Eric Schickler, a political scientist at University of California, Berkeley, about his new book, “Racial Realignment: The Transformation of American Liberalism, 1932-1965” (Princeton University Press).

Schickler challenges the conventional argument that this realignment occurred in the 1960s, dating the change to several decades earlier following the aftermath of the New Deal. Drawing upon rich data sources and original historic research, Schickler shows that top party leaders were among the last to move, and their choices were dictated by changes that had occurred beneath them — not unlike this year's presidential race. 


Zelizer is the Malcolm Stevenson Forbes, Class of 1941 
Professor of History and Public Affairs at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He has been one of the pioneers in the revival of American political history. He is the author of several books including, most recently, "The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society." Zelizer is a frequent commentator in the international and national media on political history and contemporary politics. He has published more than 600 hundred op-eds, including his weekly column on CNN.com

Wang is professor of neuroscience and molecular biology at Princeton University. He is known for his books "Welcome to Your Brain" and "Welcome to Your Child's Brain" and for his founding role at the Princeton Election Consortium, a blog providing U.S. election analyses. In 2004, Wang was one of the first to aggregate U.S. presidential polls using probabilistic methods. In 2012, his statistical analysis correctly predicted the presidential vote outcome in 49 of 50 states. He has also developed new statistical standards for partisan gerrymandering. A neuroscientist, Wang's academic research focuses on the neuroscience of learning, the cerebellum and autism.