Two weeks ago, we asked you to tell us which states belonged in the South. More than 40,000 of you submitted responses over the course of a couple of days — and this is what the map you created looks like.
A state was considered Southern if it was included in at least 50 percent of submissions. And we found that 12 states made the cut. Eight states collected more than 90 percent of voters, while four states got 70 to 80 percent. And those last four states hint that the way we conceive of the South may have less to do with geography and historical context than we think.
The most Southern states
Mississippi is the most Southern state by a hair
Mississippi edged out Alabama as the most Southern state by just two votes. Ninety-eight percent of 41,947 readers surveyed thought Mississippi was Southern (which makes it more Southern than Iowa is Midwestern).
The rest of the top five — Georgia, South Carolina, and Louisiana — make up the other states of the Deep South.
There was a slight drop-off in votes for Tennessee, North Carolina, and Arkansas, but they're all still unmistakably Southern by readers' standards. They all came in around 91 to 95 percent.
Florida, Texas, and Virginia are still in the South — for now
After Arkansas, there was a large drop of 4,842 votes to Florida.
Are Florida, Texas, and Virginia part of the South? The first two states make up, literally, the southernmost parts of the contiguous United States, and at 80 percent and 72 percent, respectively, readers agree that they are unambiguously Southern — but they also netted fewer votes than Mississippi and Alabama. Virginia, too, got 73 percent of reader votes.
I got the most feedback about the hazy Southern boundaries of northern Virginia, southern Florida, and, to a lesser extent, western Texas. These areas have experienced a large influx of outsiders, from federal employees to retirees to immigrants. A lot of readers wanted a way to split these states to indicate the effect the newcomers have had on Southern culture, accents, mannerisms, and demographics. Evidently, though, they still retain enough Southernness to make the cut.
Kentucky is the only Southern border state
I've long thought that most former slaveholding states were Southern, whether or not they seceded during the Civil War. (Except Delaware. It's just a smidge too far north for me, geographically speaking.) The majority of readers disagreed with me.
Among the five slaveholding border states that didn't join the Confederacy during the Civil War — Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, and West Virginia (which split from Virginia during the war) — only Kentucky received enough votes to qualify as Southern. The Bluegrass State, home to the finest bourbon and barbecue I've ever had, qualified to most readers as Southern, receiving 70 percent of the votes. It is the lowest-ranked Southern state on the list.
Is Oklahoma its own region?
Fifty-one percent of readers thought Oklahoma wasn't Southern; it was shy about 514 votes to cross over. The Sooner State fared worse in our previous region survey, in which 82 percent of voters said it wasn't part of the Midwest. Poor Oklahoma, neither Midwestern nor Southern.
What the South looks like, depending on how you voted
As in our Midwest survey, we didn't get too many trolls who purposely submitted bogus states. You can use the map below to check out how likely voters were to pick a state based on other states they selected.
What makes a place Southern?
Two years ago, I drove across the country from Los Angeles to Washington, DC, to start a new job. My last pit stop before I hit the capital was a gas station in northern Virginia, where a Confederate flag hung over the cash register. It was the first and only Confederate flag I saw on my drive, though I had crossed through Texas, Arkansas, and Tennessee. To me, Virginia is unimpeachably Southern. It's the birthplace of Robert E. Lee and home to Richmond, the Confederate's longest-running capital.
So it's confusing to me why Virginia falls so low on the list — and led me to think more about why places like it and Texas are considered "less Southern."
Maybe newcomers are changing the fabric of Southern identity by bringing in their own culture and histories. But there's also a really interesting story in Texas Monthly about how the state managed to distance itself from the Confederacy by aligning with the West and creating a mythos of cowboys and ranches far away from the cotton fields of the Deep South. So perhaps the extent to which a state is popularly considered Southern depends on how much it succeeds or fails at distancing itself from the legacy of black enslavement.