The reversal in the parties’ positions on civil rights is widely viewed as one of the most important political transformations in the last century. Drawing upon new indicators of members’ support for civil rights—which more effectively gauge preferences than do the roll-call-based measures analyzed in previous studies—we show that northern Democrats displaced northern Republicans as the leading advocates of civil rights in the House beginning in the mid-1940s, and that the gap gradually increased thereafter. Rather than a relatively sudden change driven by national party elites, we argue that the civil rights realignment was a response to the two parties’ coalitional partners.
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