Belmont University Research Symposium (BURS)

Publication Date



Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, College of


Political Science, Department of

BURS Faculty Advisor

Dr. Nathan Griffith

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation


The Appalachian region is a unique case within American politics, yet it has not been given much attention by political scientists. In the 1990s and 2000s, the area underwent a political realignment, shifting from a Democratic stronghold to a Republican one. I plan to examine proposed theories of realignment in the context of Appalachia to determine the root cause of this shift. I expect to find a relationship between the adoption of environmentalism as a Democratic principle and the change in Appalachian voting behavior because of the prominence of the coal industry in the region. I will use statistical analysis to determine if there was a significant shift in Democratic environmental values and determine the relationship between Appalachia, coal production, and the Democratic vote share from 1976 to 2020. My research found that the divide between Democratic and Republican environmentalism did increase significantly after 2000, with the majority of the change occurring on the Democratic side. Further, I found that a moderate correlation does exist between Appalachian counties’ Democratic vote share and the county’s history of coal production aligning with the timing of the shift in environmental values.