Who Supports Secession?

by: Chris Bowers

Thu Apr 16, 2009 at 17:18

Governor Rick Perry of Texas continues to make veiled threats to secede today. The only thing that is really unusual about these threats is that they are coming from a Governor, rather than the guy sitting next to you in the local bar. After a political power shift, empty threats about emigration and / or secession are fairly common. It is a safe bet that everyone in America has either a family member or a close friend who has made such a threat at some point over the past decade. In the days immediately following the 2004 election, in my West Philly neighborhood, talk of secession and emigration was rampant to the point of becoming standard ambient noise. Eventually, as time passes, both the tempers, and the empty threats accompanying them, begin to recede.

But, now that the Governor of the second largest state in the country has brought secession talk into the mainstream, it is worth investigating national support for secessionist. The only poll I could find on the subject was from Zogby (a telephone poll) from July of last year. The results indicated surprisingly high support for secessionist movements in America, and that support was significantly higher among Democratic-leaning demographics than among Republican-leaning demographics. From the poll

One in five American adults - 22% - believe that any state or region has the right to "peaceably secede from the United States and become an independent republic,"(...)

The level of support for the right of secession was consistent in every region in the country, though the percentage was slightly higher in the South (26%) and the East (24%).  The figures were also consistent for every age group, but backing was strongest among younger adults, as 40% among those age 18 to 24 and 24% among those age 25 to 34 agreed states and regions have secession rights.

Broken down by race, the highest percentage agreeing with the right to secede was among Hispanics (43%) and African-Americans (40%). Among white respondents, 17% said states or regions should have the right to peaceably secede.

Politically, liberal thinkers were much more likely to favor the right to secession for states and regions, as 32% of mainline liberals agreed with the concept. Among the very liberal the support was only slightly less enthusiastic - 28% said they favored such a right. Meanwhile, just 17% of mainline conservatives thought it should exist as an option for states or regions of the nation.

Asked whether they would support a secessionist movement in their own state, 18% said they would, with those in the South most likely to say they would back such an effort. In the South, 24% said they would support such an effort, while 15% in the West and Midwest said the same. Here, too, younger adults were more likely than older adults to be supportive - 35% of those under age 30 would support secession in their state, compared to just 17% of those over age 65. Among African Americans, 33% said they would support secession, compared to just 15% of white adults. The more education a respondent had, the less likely they were to support secession - as 38% of those with less than a high school diploma would support it, compared to just 10% of those with a college degree.

While not very high in an absolute sense, support for secession is only just below where approval for Bush was during his final few months in office.

Just as interesting is who supports secession. Liberals, African-Americans, Latinos, young voters and the less educated are the most supportive of secession. These groups tend to skew Democratic, showing that support for secession is not just limited to conservatives like Rick Perry and the teabaggers.

Marginalization within broader society is a clear connection that runs through most of the demographics that favor secession: Minorities, the less educated and young people--over one third of whom appear to favor secession--are simply given smaller shareholdings within the country at large. As such, it isn't surprising they favor secession more than other groups. The better adjusted, and better connected, and better off you are within a given society, the more likely you will want to stay a part of that society.

By contrast, for the guy who runs the second largest state in the country to blather on about feeling ignored is a mind-bending level of egocentric pouting (although he might feel better if he finally came out of the closet). Much the same goes for the upper middle class white folk who were cheering for secession when Perry talked both yesterday and today. Exactly why they feel so marginalized is not entirely clear, but the conservative movement's persecution complex knows few limits.

Personally, I believe the better approach for progressives is to try and connect the United States more with other countries and international organizations, rather than fragmenting into smaller countries. More connection, not more division, is the answer. Also, it also would be worth polling this question again in 2009, to see if the demographics most supportive of secession have changed at all with President Obama's election. My bet is that yes, there has been.  

Chris Bowers :: Who Supports Secession?

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well, Democrats bombed Serbia to allow secession (4.00 / 1)
of Bosnia from Yugoslavia and Kosovo from Serbia, so presumably liberals have some belief in secession.

New Jersey politics at Blue Jersey.

I agree that the numbers have likely changed (0.00 / 0)
But I'd add a few things to the explanation of why this is going on.

First, I think that each of those demographics feels less connected to America as a "nation." You might call it marginalization, perhaps it is, but I also see it as a consequence of a dying concept of nationhood and patriotism - what reigned supreme during the 20th century, from about 1917 to the years immediately after 2001, is fading fast.

Second, I think that globalization tends to actually give fuel to regionalism and localism. You see this in Europe in particular - Scotland, Catalonia, etc, all seeking greater local autonomy.

Third, my own personal view is that the US will eventually devolve into its constituent parts, and that this is not such an awful thing necessarily.

Although interestingly, the regionalization of the GOP into a Southern rump party may actually bring the other parts of the country closer together...

I think the concept of nationhood has died (4.00 / 3)
because there is no longer a party that embraces the cause of the marginalized.  

I really do feel alienated from the republicans and the democrats for various reasons. Yes, I am marginalized.  I am a disabled person, and poor.

My blog  

[ Parent ]
Not sure it's globalisation that's the cause (4.00 / 3)
I don't think European regionalist movements obtained their motive force from globalisation.

Catalonia certainly wouldn't fit - it's wanted greater autonomy since the eighteenth century at the least. Catalonian nationalists were a key part of the Republican coalition in the Spanish Civil War.

Nor would most other regionalist groups. Groups like the Basque nationalists and the Vlaams Belang reflect pre-existing ethnic tensions and feelings of marginalisation in states whose borders do not enclose discrete peoples. This tends to be exacerbated by economic stress, but has been a constant throughout the modern era - the only reason Irish nationalism isn't considered as part of this continuum is that they achieved independence ninety years ago, since the difference between a region and a nation is not one of size.

Scotland and Wales possibly have some relevance here, since they (and perhaps a few other similar cases such as Bavaria) fall into a third group. Here there's a degree of perceived ethnic difference, but not a total one - there are almost no Welsh monoglots and most Scots do not understand Gaelic. Yet there is a definite tension, since these groups will tend to feel alienated because of the disproportionate influence of London (and to some extent southern England) on UK politics - and some amongst the English in turn feel alienated when Scots or Welshmen hold power in government. There's a clear economic connection across the borders (and in fact North Wales and South Wales have much better economic and transport links to England than they do to each other) and there are plenty of Scots and Welshmen in England (and plenty of people in Scotland and Wales who identify with neither).

This is probably the group that U.S. secessionists are closer to. There's no irrevocable ethnic difference (although differences may be magnified so as to create this appearance) nor is there a clear economic unit, but there is a feeling of marginalisation with a loose geographical basis. Still, the U.S. has a very weak version of this.

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[ Parent ]
a facilitator, not a motive force (4.00 / 1)
i think it's more that the EU makes it easier to realistically consider an independent Scotland or Wales. in the way that thinking about, say, dividing California into two or three states, is easier to imagine than making it into a completely separate country. so that's a limited situation.

i do think that there is also a general tendency for cultural groups to want to be autonomous, that's more global and diffuse, which is an influence on the way that people think about the subject.

not everything worth doing is profitable. not everything profitable is worth doing.

[ Parent ]
Regionalist differences in Europe are older and more visceral (4.00 / 1)
And most people in the US just don't understand this. All you have to do to appreciate the difference is spend a few hours in a pub in Gwynedd and then go to a celebration of the Conch Republic in Key West. The former is a way of life. The latter is BS.

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[ Parent ]
Seccession is a TERRIBLE idea. (4.00 / 3)
And I say this as a citizen of that part of the country that gave it a try, once.

Read Robert Altemeyer's "The Authoritarians" to see why, especially the chapter about the "Global Change Game."

Montani semper liberi

Omigod! I agree with Sadie Baker! (4.00 / 2)
After 100 TR's slapped one after another on every comment I make!

I first heard of Robert Altemeyer in John Dean's book about the neocons, Conservatives Without Conscience, and now I'm a card-carrying member of the "Dr. Bob" fan-club, which obviously includes an incredibly diverse collection of fans.

There's a lot of Altemeyer online now, and even a complete and free edition of The Authoritarians here.

[ Parent ]
You are a funny guy jacob (4.00 / 1)

[ Parent ]
And you deserved every one, babe. (0.00 / 0)

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
Free association is a core liberal value (4.00 / 1)
See Thomas Paine for a refutation of unbreakable contracts entered into by one's ancestors. The US shouldn't be like the mafia, "once you're in, you're in".

A huge, centralized society is breeding ground for the corruption and paralysis that is magnifying human suffering. The things that ameliorate human suffering: science and commerce, function better out side of a military-industrial complex.

An EU-style Open Market would be less militaristic and better for social welfare then a Hamiltonian Leviathan.

If there wasn't a military necessity for a strong union to defend against European tyrants, our Founders would never have acceded to Hamilton.

support for secession goes more than one way (4.00 / 3)
If a liberal in New York supported the idea of secession while Bush was President, did he or she want New York to be able to leave because Bush was President or did he or she regret that Texas hadn't seceeded because Bush was President?  It doesn't seem likely that she or he would support New York secession while Obama is President. Sometimes in the last thirty years, I have, except for ending slavery of course, wished the South had left the Union so our national politics wouldn't have been so distorted by Southern politicians who have been so dominate.

Secession or Disassociation? (4.00 / 4)

 I was as prone as anyone to secession sentiments in the aftermath of the 2004 election, but I didn't view it as a "leave the Union" thing as much as a "let's kick out the red states" thing. And more generally, if the truly hardcore right-wing parts of the country were to just peel away from the rest of us, would it really be such a bad thing?

 And yes, I know there are many, many good progressives who live in red states. Which is why I don't advocate the idea of disassociation -- a lot of perfectly good Americans would suffer terribly once they're shorn of their constitutional rights under a red-state-only regime.

"We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn

Thank you! (4.00 / 9)
Don't abandon us to the American Taliban. We are fighting them here so you don't have to.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
How's this for an idea? (4.00 / 4)

 Can we set up wingnut reservations? Just set aside some land and declare it a wingnut rez, and set it up so that those who live there pay no federal taxes, but receive no federal benefits -- no interstates, no Social Security, no Medicare, no FEMA, no banking regulations, no military bases.

 Watch 'em all flock there... for a few weeks.  

"We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn

[ Parent ]
movement (4.00 / 2)
I seem to remember some kind of fundamentalist christian movement where they were all going to move to south carolina.  Being a Michigander, I would very much be in favor of this, I would probably feel different if I lived in South Carolina.

Our Dime Understanding the U.S. Budget

[ Parent ]
Yes, a group in PA, I believe... (0.00 / 0)
They were very upset about... what, I don't know... it was like 1994, and they pretty much had everything that they wanted with Bush and his wingnut congress... they even had Santorum as their senator...  

They wanted all the wingnuts to move to South Carolina and secede... I was like, OK, bye!  Take your electoral votes with you!

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!

[ Parent ]
Don't worry... We will organize an airlift for you! (4.00 / 1)

Bo, the first dog, is an excellent pilot, I hear!

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!

[ Parent ]
eh (0.00 / 0)
a state should be allowed to leave the union if the people are so inclined to want that. Hell, political realities almost dictate this to occur, and while it's not necessarily good for everyone, its certainly good for the majority (long term).

Which people? (0.00 / 0)
And what happens to the rest?

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
well (0.00 / 0)
If the U.S. broke up into two federal governments, people in those regions could in theory be better represented. Obviously the South would take on a much more hostile form of government.

Let bat-shit-crazy people get a bat-shit-crazy system of government and let the rest of us move forward past single-payer healthcare, gay marriage, etc.. to the next big problem to solve (crime in our cities, poverty, better education...).

What happens to the rest? Well, that depends on how the political discourse evolves in their respective regions and how much say certain people amass.  

[ Parent ]
No, we wouldn't. (0.00 / 0)
I know exactly what kind of government I would be living under if the seccessionists got their way (hint -- you don't see many women, gays or racial minorities calling for it, do you?) and it would not be representative.

It would be that good old, might-makes-right Conservativism. The kind that drowned New Orleans and invaded other nations that never attacked us.

Why on earth does anyone think those people deserve their own country? They need less power, not more.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
actually the original post here (0.00 / 0)
showed minorities like secession better than nonminorities.  You realize individual cities could secede too, so for instance Atlanta and New Orleans wouldn't have to be victimized any longer by the conservatism of the rest of the states they live in.

My blog  

[ Parent ]
eh, again (0.00 / 0)
i think we're all for sane policy and I get where you're going with this. I really do. But eh.

I guess I don't care for baseless comments or people simplifying to the point that it just hurts to read, but consider your NOLA POV, it's not like our current government saved New Orleans to begin with...it's broken.

and while i'm okay being one nation of 50 states (or 51), I'm more okay if our nation didn't have to fight for sensible policy with stupid. Which has been the case, well for forever.

[ Parent ]
That wasn't our current government (0.00 / 0)
That was an occupation force of Conservatives who stole the 2000 election.

The same assholes who, having lost control of the federal government, now want to carve off their own province, in over to do what they please with its inhabitants.

And some people here are saying, "I'm okay with that?"

You wouldn't be so glib if it was your life people were talking about.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
my life? (0.00 / 0)
what are you talking about?

I'm completely okay with portions breaking off and being self-sufficient as a nation.

It's not a political reality at this point but if it ever was, so what? Regions have a right to govern themselves to their principals. Right, wrong or otherwise and especially if they really, realy don't feel they're being represented fairly.  

[ Parent ]
we will never let Georgia go! (4.00 / 2)
well, OK, maybe Georgia. and the Baltics. but never Ukraine, for sure!

not everything worth doing is profitable. not everything profitable is worth doing.

Speaking of Georgia... (0.00 / 0)
Check this out!  Georgia's State Senate, by near unanimous vote, threatens to secede.


REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!

[ Parent ]
I think there's a sizeable difference (4.00 / 2)
between supporting the idea that a state may have the right to secede, and to support secession at this moment in time based upon recent political events.

As to the former, I think there was a better argument for the right to secede prior to the Civil War. The outcome of that war made the character of this country much less that of a collection of sovereign states and more that of a unified nation. So I'm a little up in the air about that point.

As to the latter, I believe it to be the height of hysteria and political grandstanding to suggest current grievances with the Federal government are sufficient to justify the notion of secession, even if the right does exist.  

Agreed about this difference (4.00 / 5)
But I don't think the Civil War changed anything with respect to secession. Neither the states nor the federal government are or ever were sovereign.  The right to secession flows from popular sovereignty, the same as all government power does.

The problem with the Confederacy was that they drew on popular sovereignty to deny it along with all rights to a substantial portion on their population.

The problem with this talk today is that it is overblown rhetoric. Those who say it don't take it seriously.

One similarity - Southern states participated in the election of 1860, and when they lost, they left the union, even before the Lincoln Admin even did anything.  They did not participate in that election in good faith. The same is true here.  

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
Precisely. (4.00 / 4)
So long as the Southern elites controlled the US government (just count how many of the first presidents were from Virginia) they had no problem with the heavy hand of federal government.

They only became interested in "states rights" when they lost their monopoly on the federal government.

Same as today.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
Weirdly, I don't think that the civil war settled much (4.00 / 1)
if it did, why wasn't the 16th amendment an amnendment that prohibited states from seceding or nullifying laws?  It seems weird that they didn't decide to make an explicit law to that regard, like they did with ending slavery and establishing equal protection (though the enforcement on that latter one was obviously WAAAAY slow).

[ Parent ]
Texas, you want to leave the union? (4.00 / 1)
I'll pack your bags!  Don't let the door hit ya on the way out!  Seriously!!

If they don't like being in the U.S. now, wait until the state goes blue in the next few election cycles... then, they'll REALLY be mad!

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!

This is stupid (0.00 / 0)
Any state in the US is susceptible to dumb leadership. Joseph McCarthy was from Wisconsin. I don't know where you're from but I bet there's an idiot in charge in your state's history that reaches the level of Rick Perry.

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
I'm just getting tired of these conservaitves... (0.00 / 0)
...who think they are so "oppressed" that they want to take their toys and go home.  If a red state wants to secede... fine.. bye!  Take your electoral votes with you!  See how ya do!

You'll be begging to come back in no time at all...

I can say that snarkily, 'cos it will never happen...

And I sympathize with all the progressives in texas... I know a few, and it has to be miserable living there... but, there is hope... The demographics are trending our way hard!  

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!

[ Parent ]
Viva La Yankees! (4.00 / 1)

Nationalism is not the same thing as terrorism, and an adversary is not the same thing as an enemy.

[ Parent ]
Alaska Will Secede. We Must Be Prepared To Bomb Them (4.00 / 3)
Alaska is also rumoured to be interested in secession as the husband of the governor was part of a sessionist movement.

I think as Americans we need to reach out to Texas and Alaska, two of our largest states.

Lets sit down at the table and discuss our differences and if that doesn't work we can always bomb the people who live in small towns and villages with our drones (Which are in NEVADA...NOT TEXAS OR ALASKA...TEXAS does not have Drone technology) who are suspected of being terrorists.

The Texas people and the Alaskan people are a proud people, proud of their heritage, culture and customs ...most of them mean well, but there are some who hate our freedom and they want to destroy what we stand for.

What worries me is nuclear technology getting into the wrong hands in Texas. Alaska already has nuclear weapons and I believe they are a threat to israel if they secede.

So...I would approve of building a wall around the state of Alaska and allowing the Israelies to bomb their nuclear facilities when and  if necessary.

Some hard choices will have to be made. The American people must be willing to make great sacrafices in the years ahead to preserve our freedoms from those who threaten our way of life.

Why bomb when we can go shopping? (4.00 / 1)
Think about our economy and all the money we'd waste on bombs.

Sell the suckers!  

We sell Alaska to the Russians - they save ANWR and the bears, we get all the free vodka we can stand.

Then we sell Texas to Mexico  - the illegals immigrants get new homes, we get free stays in Cancun and Cabo.

And the best part of all?  Ted and Sarah and George and Dick, oh and Rick too, would be considered foreigners.  And because of their threats to our President would be considered enemy combatants - no longer under the protections of our Constitution.

Yee Ha!

Nationalism is not the same thing as terrorism, and an adversary is not the same thing as an enemy.

[ Parent ]
Wisedom (4.00 / 1)
You are wise. Very Wise.

[ Parent ]
I'm suddenly all for unilateral action.. (4.00 / 1)
While it is unconstitutional for the federal government to take any action against a state, other states are perfectly free to use force to change the status quo.

And both Texas and Alaska need their quos's adjusted.

Hey California and Illinois, oh and definitely you crazy Ohioans, what are you guys doing on July 4??  ;]

Nationalism is not the same thing as terrorism, and an adversary is not the same thing as an enemy.

Good riddance to 'em, if they're serious (4.00 / 3)
When it comes to threats to secede from places like Texas or Alaska, I've got one thing to say to them: "don't let the door hit you in the a__ on the way out."  Seriously, should a state ever get to the point of wanting to engage in a serious dialog about leaving... as long as they don't try to dictate the terms of the separation by military force, I'd say they're welcome to go.

Of course, suddenly counting as a foreign country for access to US markets is gonna hurt, as is suddenly not being under the penumbra of the world's most powerful military... and under the NPT, the precent is that seceding states are NOT nuclear weapons states...  

[ Parent ]
This sovereignty stuff (4.00 / 2)
isn't really reminiscent of the Civil War. I don't think that is what is being referenced between the lines.  The right historical parallel is to the opposition to the Civil Rights movement. We'll get distracted with this idea of secession, and miss the relevance of the word sovereignty.

By the way, that doesn't mean that this is all about race. Back then, the various enemies were all intertwined: African Americans, communists, liberals, labor organizers, foreigners, non-Christians - "Others."

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

It's just another way (0.00 / 0)
of saying "white supremacy," isn't it? Seccession talk is really a call for white people to rise up against The Other.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]

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