The State: As the South’s population booms — projected to constitute 40 percent of the nation’s population by 2030 — a new Associated Press-Ipsos poll finds the percentage of people in the region identifying themselves as “Southerners” is slowly shrinking.
The AP-Ipsos poll conducted last month found 63 percent of people living in the region identified themselves as Southerners. That mirrors a trend from a University of North Carolina analysis of polling data that found a decline of 7 percentage points on the same Southern identity question between 1991 and 2001, to 70 percent.
“Does it mean that being a Southerner no longer has any meaning? I don’t think it does,” says Larry Griffin, a sociologist at UNC who analyzed the AP polling data. “It just has a very different kind of meaning.”
Are the qualities that have long been ascribed to the South really true anymore? Are Southerners really more hospitable than other Americans? Does family really count for more down South? Are depth of faith, loyalty to home, reverence for history and sense of place identifiably “Southern” traits?
The South has become “sort of like a lifestyle, rather than an identity anymore,” says James Cobb, author of the newly published Away Down South: A History of Southern Identity.