More Blacks and Latinos in Southern Suburbs Is Bad for the GOP

Normally a Republican stronghold, the South is quickly diversifying, and that could mean trouble for GOP candidates in 2012.

Posted: 03/21/2011 06:27 PM EDT

The latest Census data shows that Blacks in the southern U.S. are moving to the suburbs more than they have in decades, integrating metropolitan areas that for years were defined by inner-city Black areas and suburban white ones.

The number of Blacks living in the suburbs grew by 58 percent in the South in the last decade, while other regions’ African-Americans chose the suburbs only 41 percent of the time. That’s the highest number of Blacks in suburbia since the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

The South also had major gains in neighborhood integration, especially in places like Florida, Georgia and Texas. This is huge news, as the historically segregated South going through this kind of sea change, with Blacks living next door to whites in unprecedented numbers, could theoretically help chip away at an ugly history of racial animosity.

Besides Blacks, Latinos made major gains in cities in the South in the past decade. For the first time in American history, Latino population growth in the southern U.S. outpaced both that of whites and blacks. Experts say this could be a major cause for concern for the Republican Party.

"All of this will shake up the politics," said Lance DeHaven-Smith, a Florida State University–Tallahassee political science professor. Because Latinos generally disapprove of GOP policies, more Latinos in Southern states— generally a Republican stronghold—could have tremendous consequences in presidential elections.

“All the Democrats have to do is pick up a couple Southern states, and Republicans are in trouble,” deHaven-Smith said.