Pell Center

The Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy at Salve Regina is a multidisciplinary research center focused at the intersection of politics, policies and ideas.

Substantial Regional Differences in Perceptions of Threats to US Democracy Found in Salve Regina Nationhood Lab-Cornell IOPGA Analysis

March 29, 2023

NEWPORT, RI— New analysis of a nationwide poll conducted last year found substantial regional differences in perceptions of the seriousness of various threats to U.S. democracy.

The analysis, published Tuesday by Nationhood Lab at Salve Regina University’s Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy, segmented the results of a survey designed by the Cornell University Institute of Politics and Global Affairs using the American Nations regional model. The American Nations model designates regions based on the mapping of rival colonization streams and is more accurate than designating regions based on often arbitrary state lines.

It found respondents in the Deep South and those in Left Coast – a Chile-shaped region encompassing the Pacific coast west of the Cascades and Sierras from roughly Monterrey, California to Juneau, Alaska – often had diametrically opposite views. Only 42 percent of Deep Southerners said the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol to overturn the results of the 2020 election was a major threat compared to 61% of Left Coasters. By contrast, 50 percent of Deep Southerners said voting absentee and by mail constituted a major threat, a stance held by only 19 percent of Left Coasters.

Divides also often appeared between regions colonized by New Englanders and their descendants, the Dutch-led colonial project around what is now New York City, and the rapidly changing Chesapeake tidewater country on one hand and Scots-Irish dominated Greater Appalachia on the other.

“The cultural and ideological differences between our regions go back centuries and have been remarkably consistent over time despite the incredible political, demographic, technological, social and economic transformations that have taken place,” said Nationhood Lab director Colin Woodard, who co-authored the report with Cornell-IOPGA faculty director Douglas L. Kriner, Clinton Rossiter Professor in American Institutions at Cornell’s Department of Government.

“This unfortunately includes evaluations of what does and doesn’t constitute a threat to the Republic.”

Kriner and Woodard’s analysis also confirmed an earlier finding in the Cornell survey, which in addition to the nationwide survey had also polled two competitive swing U.S. House districts where voters still split their ballots, Texas’s 13th District, which stretches from McAllen on the Mexican border to the eastern suburbs of San Antonio, and Michigan’s 8th, which includes Flint and Saginaw. The Cornell survey – which was co-designed by Kriner and whose results were announced in May of last year – found respondents in the both swing districts were more concerned about Trumpist threats to democracy than Americans at large, and in the south Texas district substantially so. Woodard and Kriner wondered to what extent this was simply a product of the regions they each belonged to – Spanish settled “El Norte” and New Englander-led settlement zone American Nations “Yankeedom.”

The report found respondents in those two swing districts were more concerned than respondents in their respective regional cultures, and substantially so in Texas-13, suggesting there is something “special” about the swing districts which might also apply to similar districts in each region.

The full analysis – including a page of appendix and footnotes – can be found at

Nationhood Lab is an interdisciplinary research, writing, testing and dissemination initiative at the Pell Center at Salve Regina University. Its data journalism component uses the American Nations model created by Woodard in his book of the same name. It is also developing and testing a revised U.S. civic national narrative for the 21st century that reflects who Americans are as a people, recognizes and incorporates our past failures, and furthers the liberal democratic and civic nationalist ideas at the core of the American experiment.