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UrbanSoutherner

Greenville/Upstate = Bible Belt?

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I have noticed a number of post suggesting that the Upstate area of SC with its primary city of Greenville is more socially conservative than the Midlands with Columbia or the Lowcountry with Charleston. That is certainly a common impression that people have. My question is how much truth is there to it.

My own thoughts are:

1. The entire state is socially conservative. This is not about some areas are socially conservative and others are not. It is an issue of degrees--some areas are relatively more socially conservative.

2. As with most stereotypes, there is probably some truth to it.

3. As with most stereotypes, whatever truth there may be to it has probably been overblown.

4. BJU's presence in Greenville adds a lot of fuel to the notion of Greenville as the hub of the Bible Belt.

5. I do believe that the Upstate is more socially conservative. I think there are historical explanations for this. I get a somewhat different vibe in Greenville than say Columbia. I also see it in the state's politics. Generally, the Upstate tends to elect socially conservative, Christian Coalition type Republicans, while the Lowcountry tends to elect business, country club type Republicans (some of whom may still be living in the 1860s, but that's for another topic). There are exceptions of course, but I think the general dynamic holds. You can see the difference in the 2000 Republican primary where McCain's best areas were in the Lowcountry/Midlands and Bush's best areas were in the Upstate.

6. In the city proper or central Greenville, you can probably escape from this dynamic to some degree.

So, what do people think? More importantly, why do you think what you think?

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I don't think the coast is that socially conservative. Myrtle Beach is obsessed with making money and is a relatively young city. When the state still had Blue Laws, they were routinely ignored in Myrtle Beach. And down towards Charleston in the low country (because the area has been populated for hundreds of years) there are witches, root doctors, pagans and just about anything else that good "christians" are against. There are areas down there that just until recently were very isolated from the rest of the state. This area is also different in that this was one of the very few areas of the South where Blacks and Whites were pretty much on the same level after the Civil War. Contrast this to the Piedmont where Whites and Blacks were socially stratified in many small towns by the "upper class" that owned and operated the cotton mills.

I do agree however that as you head west there is a dramatic change and the state does get quite a bit more socially conservative. Its almost like two different states.

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One more thing to consider - is the history of Upstate SC. Upstate SC was not populated by non natives until the 1700's, when independent minded Scot-Irish settled from the Mid-Atlantic. They had a huge distrust of the British government, which the SC government based in Charleston represented. Additionally, their religion was mostly presbyterian, which later was added with baptist & methodist, while the 'proper' English SC plantation owners of the lower / mid state were episcopalian.

So there was animosity between the regions, as there were some missionary attempts at converting the new settlers and taxes were attempted to be collected. All were great failures, which culminated in the regulator movement in NC & SC before the revolutionary war. Essentially, the scot-irish didn't care for the Englishman's religion nor their concept of taxation. Later of course they settled things with the revolutionary war, which in the south was in a sense a civil war. This was due to the lower state resident's lukewarm support for revolt, which explained why the British were able to control most of the southeast. But as we know at Cowpens & Kings Mountain - that wasn't the case in the upstate.

And their are a variety of other historical cultural traits that would explain the conservative background of the upstate. But one thing to keep in mind, traditional southern concept of being conservative is not the same as the modern neo-conservative. It's only the neo-conservatives that have been able to win the support of the traditional conservatives. But that is another topic.

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Though things are changing rapidly, quite simply, yes. The proper term I've heard several times is "The Buckle of the Bible Belt." This shouldn't give anyone the idea that people of a different religion than Southern Baptist or Presbyterian aren't welcome, because there are groups representing every kind of religion who have found a peaceful and comfortable home here. :)

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I generally agree with Skyliner.

BJU is often used by outsiders as evidence of a "bad" or "unwanted" thing. It seems as though non-religious people or even left-leaning people are quick to point out how this area stands out religiously and because we are also a right-leaning region. I don't think that it should be viewed as a negative thing though.

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I think you only need to look at election results to see the most conservative versus the most liberal areas of South Carolina. You can't necessarily group an entire region together because city residents tend to lean more towards the left and suburban/rural areas tend to lean more towards the right. The right-leaning nature of Greenville is only a negative if you're a left-leaning person. The left-leaning nature of Columbia is only a negative if you're a right-leaning person. I believe Charleston is kind of in between the other 2 cities. The point made earlier that Charleston Republicans tend to be more economic conservatives than social conservatives is a good point. Let's look at the last 3 Presidential elections for some idea of the leanings of our state's 3 most populated counties. Keep in mind that the central cities in each of these counties would probably tend to vote a little more liberally than their counties as a whole. I think my points about Columbia being the most liberal city in SC, by far, will be born out in these points. These are some of the reasons that I choose to live in Columbia.

2004 county Kerry votes/% of total Bush votes/% of total

Charleston 57,249 47.09% 62,179 51.15%

Greenville 54,286 32.79% 109,292 66.02%

Richland (Columbia) 75,863 57.00% 55,922 42.02%

State 648,443 40.88% 920,072 58.00%

2000 county Gore votes/% of total Bush votes/% of total

Charleston 49,520 44.4% 58,229 52.2%

Greenville 43,810 31.2% 92,714 66.0%

Richland (Columbia) 62,701 54.3% 49,675 42.3%

State 565,561 40.84% 785,937 56.75%

1996 county Clinton votes/% of total Dole votes/% of total

(Remember Ross Perot had significant votes also)

Charleston 43,571 45.0% 48,675 50.25%

Greenville 41,605 34.51% 71,210 59.07%

Richland (Columbia) 52,222 54.78% 39,092 41.0%

State 504,051 43.77% 573,458 49.8%

As you can see, Richland County is increasingly Democratic while Charleston and Greenville are consistently Republican. Most of the Republicans I know in the Columbia area are the country-club type. socially moderate and fiscally conservative, much like the majority of the Republicans in Charleston. I believe Republicans in rural areas and the Upstate tend to be both socially and economically conservative. Democrats I know in Richland tend to be fairly liberal socially and fiscally moderate. They are probably more moderate socially in other areas of the state.

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I think you only need to look at election results to see the most conservative versus the most liberal areas of South Carolina. You can't necessarily group an entire region together because city residents tend to lean more towards the left and suburban/rural areas tend to lean more towards the right. The right-leaning nature of Greenville is only a negative if you're a left-leaning person. The left-leaning nature of Columbia is only a negative if you're a right-leaning person. I believe Charleston is kind of in between the other 2 cities. The point made earlier that Charleston Republicans tend to be more economic conservatives than social conservatives is a good point. Let's look at the last 3 Presidential elections for some idea of the leanings of our state's 3 most populated counties. Keep in mind that the central cities in each of these counties would probably tend to vote a little more liberally than their counties as a whole. I think my points about Columbia being the most liberal city in SC, by far, will be born out in these points. These are some of the reasons that I choose to live in Columbia.

2004 county

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Screw politics, its all crap anyway. I voted for Kerry but I am more of a don't like any politician person. They are all really working together. Most of them(presidential candidates) are Skulls and Bones members, a very powerful mafia type group. Lets not get started on politics. Please! :mellow:

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As you can see, Richland County is increasingly Democratic while Charleston and Greenville are consistently Republican. Most of the Republicans I know in the Columbia area are the country-club type. socially moderate and fiscally conservative, much like the majority of the Republicans in Charleston. I believe Republicans in rural areas and the Upstate tend to be both socially and economically conservative. Democrats I know in Richland tend to be fairly liberal socially and fiscally moderate. They are probably more moderate socially in other areas of the state.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Interesting data, waccamatt, and I agree that these stats do show certain trends as far as who's conservative vs. liberal. Another very interesting fact is the voting data in the surrounding MSA counties. While Charleston County is fairly conservative, Berkeley and Dorchester counties voted for Bush by a wide margin.

As far as Columbia's MSA, Kershaw and Lexington counties also overwhelmingly voted for Bush. Greenville's other counties showed that as well. I don't know the website source, but I do remember reviewing the results after the election. If anybody can provide a link, that would be better.

Anyway, what we can see here is that out of the urban cities in SC, Cola is probably the most liberal, but it is the center of state government and has the largest public university. After living here for 2 years, I have to say that Cola is a more liberal city, but the suburbs are not. Charleston is mostly conversative with many different churches and denominations, but there are sections which can be somewhat liberal...trust me, I know. Greenville is far more conservative because it is the Baptist hub in SC. The churches up there have far more money and members than other parts of this state...thus there is more influence among the population.

But we really shouldn't view this as a negative, it just so happens to be that way. I'd be interested in information that would describe why G'ville had more church growth, especially in the Baptist churches, than the other cities.

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This brings me to another point--the Democrat vs. Republican split is not always a good indicator of the stances on social issues. Much of the African-American Democrats seem to be rather socially conservative (the black politicians are generally socially liberal). And remember in the Graham-Sanders Senate race who the gay baiter was--the Democrat. In the South, it just gets a whole lot less clear.

...which is why I noted the differences between dems in Richland County and other areas. Kerry actually got about 50% of the white vote in Richland County, also. According to the census bureau Richland County is 50% white, 45% black and 5% other races or more then one. I can't find the data, but I saw a breakdown of the electorate last November and it showed 38% of the voters last November were black, 56% white and 6% other or of mixed race backgrounds. It also showed that exit polls showed Kerry with 51% of the white vote, 86% of the black vote and something like 55% of the "other" group. I will withhold comment on the gay-baiting in that Senate race because there is alot more to that story than most know about.

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Here's a map of the election results by county.

http://www.princeton.edu/~rvdb/JAVA/electi...merica_2004.gif

This map is the blue channel -- the stronger a given county voted for Kerry, the lighter the shading will be on this map.

blue.jpg

This map is the red channel -- the stronger a given county voted for Bush, the lighter the shading will be on this map.

red.jpg

Courtesty of Princeton Univ.

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Kerry was such a poor candidate and so unlikely to connect with many Southern voters, that I don't think he can be used to determine if one if liberal or not. The only reason I voted for him (and I had to swallow my bile when I did) was simply because I thought Bush was worse for the country. However before I did this, I really seriously thought about voting for Bush or Nader instead, and I am pretty liberal.

I think if you really want to use politics to determine how liberal an are is, especially in the South, I think it is better to look at the results of the local elections.

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Just saw this on CNN...NOTE: this is the Charleston IMAX...i totally agree that it's conservative in the Upstate...but unfortunately, it's not much better anywhere else in this state...

IMAX theaters reject film over evolution

CHARLESTON, South Carolina (AP) -- IMAX theaters in several Southern cities have decided not to show a film on volcanoes out of concern that its references to evolution might offend those with fundamental religious beliefs.

http://www.cnn.com/2005/SHOWBIZ/Movies/03/...e.ap/index.html

this kind of PR can't help us... :-(

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I believe charleston native mentioned that in the Charleston section as well. That really annoys me. I enjoy volcano documentaries. Oh well.

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Is Greenville conservative? Most definitely.

The hub of the Bible Belt? Possibly. Tulsa, OK is also in the running for that position.

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Just because someone doesn't see any real proof of evolution doesn't mean that he or she is a religous nut. I personally see evolution as only a theory, because we obviously have no conclusive evidence to fully support its claim. :) Then again, all the schools are teaching it as fact, so I don't see what problem they would have with a movie referring to it. <_<

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HAHAHAHA....Tulsa. Yeah, Tulsa beats Greenville in that aspect. I thought that Greenville was the buckle, hell, I even went to BJU, but nope, Tulsa takes the title for that one.

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I have noticed a number of post suggesting that the Upstate area of SC with its primary city of Greenville is more socially conservative than the Midlands with Columbia or the Lowcountry with Charleston. That is certainly a common impression that people have. My question is how much truth is there to it.

My own thoughts are:

1. The entire state is socially conservative. This is not about some areas are socially conservative and others are not. It is an issue of degrees--some areas are relatively more socially conservative.

2. As with most stereotypes, there is probably some truth to it.

3. As with most stereotypes, whatever truth there may be to it has probably been overblown.

4. BJU's presence in Greenville adds a lot of fuel to the notion of Greenville as the hub of the Bible Belt.

5. I do believe that the Upstate is more socially conservative. I think there are historical explanations for this. I get a somewhat different vibe in Greenville than say Columbia. I also see it in the state's politics. Generally, the Upstate tends to elect socially conservative, Christian Coalition type Republicans, while the Lowcountry tends to elect business, country club type Republicans (some of whom may still be living in the 1860s, but that's for another topic). There are exceptions of course, but I think the general dynamic holds. You can see the difference in the 2000 Republican primary where McCain's best areas were in the Lowcountry/Midlands and Bush's best areas were in the Upstate.

6. In the city proper or central Greenville, you can probably escape from this dynamic to some degree.

So, what do people think? More importantly, why do you think what you think?

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Wow, you resurrected a thread from a year and a half ago, Northerner. That takes skill. ;)

I agree that the Gerenville area is conservative, but not much more than the rest of the state (if any). Most of that perception is due to Bob Jones' presence as well as the fact that people maybe vote slightly more for Republicans than the rest of the state. Columbia seems to be liberal, based on Richland County, but you still get a conservative vibe in Columbia. I think those voting patterns are mostly due to state government and a large university located there - both factors that seem to create more liberal voters. Otherwise, Columbia is just as conservative as the rest (especially when you consider the other counties in the Columbia metro). Charleston, based on my experience, seems conservative in an "Old South" kind of way. Perhaps it's all the history here, but that is the vibe I get.

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^ Good point kb, Greenville isn't too far off politically from the rest of the state. Obviously Charleston & Richland fare better, though not nearly as 'liberal' for as urban as the counties should be. But it's interesting you point out Horry, though there is a large conservative retired population, in a tourist county - I would expect a more moderate environment.

I don't think the 'Bible Belt' is as dominate as it once was though. It was famous through the 70's & 80's when neo-conservatism & tele-evangelism grew. Now, those pseudo-fascist beliefs have spread across a much larger landscape. Greenville isn't a dominant neo-conservative center, it is just one of many (obviously dominating in the suburbs).

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What is the definition of "Bible Belt" or buckle therof?

Is it numbers?

Greenville has two conservative religious universities, that total over 8,000 in enrollment, several large mega-churches, lots of Christian primary schools, lots of ministries in town that serve the community, etc.

In the late 1800's, less than 1/3 of the county's population were on church membership roles. Today that number is over 60%.

Is it influence?

The Southern Baptist Convention president pastors a Greenville church. A pastor of a local church was president of the National Baptist Convention recently. The Christian College athletic association is headquartered in Greenville. Several black churches have members who are hugely influential in parts of the western half of the city and elsewhere. Several fundamentalists churches have members who are hugely influential on the eastern half of the city. A US Senator and Congressman are active members of a conservative church in the northern part of the county. A large number of international missionaries are Greenville natives and thousands go on short mission trips every year.

Is it a general culture?

Blue laws? Other things associated with a religious culture?

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What is the definition of "Bible Belt" or buckle therof?

Is it numbers?

Greenville has two conservative religious universities, that total over 8,000 in enrollment, several large mega-churches, lots of Christian primary schools, lots of ministries in town that serve the community, etc.

In the late 1800's, less than 1/3 of the county's population were on church membership roles. Today that number is over 60%.

Is it influence?

The Southern Baptist Convention president pastors a Greenville church. A pastor of a local church was president of the National Baptist Convention recently. The Christian College athletic association is headquartered in Greenville. Several black churches have members who are hugely influential in parts of the western half of the city and elsewhere. Several fundamentalists churches have members who are hugely influential on the eastern half of the city. A US Senator and Congressman are active members of a conservative church in the northern part of the county. A large number of international missionaries are Greenville natives and thousands go on short mission trips every year.

Is it a general culture?

Blue laws? Other things associated with a religious culture?

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