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The South is changing. That should worry Republicans in 2018.

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Ted Ownby, director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, said that the politics of the South have become more intriguing recently. He pointed to the significant gains Democrats made in the Virginia legislature last year; the special House election in Georgia last year in which Democrat Jon Ossoff nearly won in a safe Republican district; the election of Jones in Alabama; and the March for Our Lives movement that brought out hundreds of thousands of people in Washington and other cities last month in support of gun control legislation.

“Those movements are largely driven by the youth in the South and the larger demographic shift,” Ownby said.

I have to equate a lot of this activism to what I experienced as a child of the Civil Rights Movement. Young people provided the real leadership and impetus for things to change in the South and they’re doing it once again.

I have to equate a lot of this activism to what I experienced as a child of the Civil Rights Movement. Young people provided the real leadership and impetus for things to change in the South and they’re doing it once again.

But not everyone sees drastic political change on the horizon.

Miguel Camacho, 48, who works as a business development manager for a construction company in Savannah, Georgia, where he’s lived for 27 years, said he noticed more Democratic candidates running against incumbents in the midterms, but he does not believe that there will be a large change.

“I think the demographic shift is not quite there for [a blue wave] to happen,” said Camacho, who participated in the poll. “At the end of the day, statewide the Republicans are always going to have an advantage. The gap isn’t going to change that much, but in local elections a few things are going to slip.”

Nevertheless, 69 percent of voters in the South said they disapprove of how Congress is handling its job, the poll found. Gregg Gulledge, a 56-year-old machinist who works at a nuclear power plant north of Chattanooga, Tennessee, believes that skepticism about Washington boosted Trump in 2016.

“Most people I know feel like the only thing Congress and folks in Washington are interested in is helping themselves,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons Trump was elected.”

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Rebecca Nelson, 40, said she hasn’t seen the ground shift much where she lives in Jacksonville, Florida. She said that the divisions are nearly as stark as when she was driven off the road in 2008 by a man who didn’t like her Hillary Clinton bumper sticker.

“I’ve spent most of my adult life in the South,” Nelson said. “I do think it’s changing to some degree, but it’s slow. There are certain cities and areas of the country that are becoming more progressive in the South, but then you have tiny small towns that haven’t changed in 300 years who have been doing the same thing the whole time.”

But Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said that civic engagement in his predominantly black district in the Mississippi Delta is at a level he’s never seen before. His office has been inundated with internship applications and volunteer requests, and he said young people are even signing up to be poll workers.

That’s noteworthy because his district could be a decisive voting block in a state that has two Senate seats up for grabs in the 2018 election.

“I have to equate a lot of this activism to what I experienced as a child of the civil rights movement,” Thompson said. “Young people provided the real leadership and impetus for things to change in the South and they’re doing it once again.”

The NBC News|SurveyMonkey South Poll was conducted March 12-25, 2018, among a national sample of 15,238 adults (+/- 1.1); a regional sample of 4,132 adults who live in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia (+/- 2.4); a sample of 1,486 adults who live in Mississippi (+/-4.6); a sample of 1,498 adults who live in Alabama (+/- 4.5); a sample of 2,209 adults who live in Georgia (+/- 3.4); and a sample of 1,710 adults who live in Tennessee (+/- 4.1). For full results and methodology, click here.

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