hero image
Christopher A. Cooper - Western Carolina University. Cullowhee, NC, US

Christopher A. Cooper

Madison Distinguished Professor of Political Science & Public Affairs and Director of the Haire Institute for Public Policy | Western Carolina University


Christopher A. Cooper's research is on N.C. politics, southern politics, political behavior and behavioral public administration.




Christopher A. Cooper Publication Christopher A. Cooper Publication Christopher A. Cooper Publication



loading image


My IT: Chris Cooper on Reaching WCU Students Everywhere Catamount Connections | Chris Cooper and Lance Morsell I Love WCU Month - Chris Cooper Politics Expert Chris Cooper Discusses Swing State North Carolina Chris Cooper | ExpertFile




Christopher A. Cooper is the Robert Lee Madison Distinguished Professor and director of the Haire Institute for Public Policy at Western Carolina University. He has received Western Carolina University’s highest awards for research (University Scholar, 2011) and teaching (Board of Governors Teaching Award, 2013) and was named the 2013 North Carolina Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Cooper’s published academic research features more than 50 refereed journal articles and book chapters on N.C. politics, state politics, southern politics, political behavior and behavioral public administration. He is also co-author of "The Resilience of Southern Identity: Why the South Still Matters in the Minds of its People" (University of North Carolina Press) and co-editor of "The New Politics of North Carolina" (published by the University of North Carolina Press).

Cooper is a frequent source for news stories about North Carolina, as well as national politics and he has been quoted hundreds of times in a variety of media including The New York Times, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Boston Herald, Al Jazeera, Charlotte Observer, Asheville-Citizen Times, The Hill, National Journal, Raleigh News and Observer, North Carolina Insider, National Public Radio (All Things Considered and Morning Edition), USA Today, CNN, FOX News, WUNC, Blue Ridge Public Radio, WFAE (Charlotte) ABC News and ESPN.com.

Industry Expertise (5)


Political Organization


Writing and Editing

Public Policy

Areas of Expertise (7)

Election Administration

Public Administration

Southern Politics

American Politics

Parties, Campaigns and Elections

State and Local Government

Research Methods

Accomplishments (3)

University Scholar (professional)

2011 - Western Carolina University

North Carolina Professor of the Year (professional)

2013 - Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

Board of Governors Teaching Award (professional)

2013 - Western Carolina University

Education (3)

University of Tennessee Knoxville: Ph.D.

University of Tennessee Knoxville: M.A.

Winthrop University: B.A.

Languages (1)

  • English

Media Appearances (20)

NC Race for Governor Tight

NY Times  online


Chris Cooper, political scientist from Western Carolina University breaks down the NC governor's race.

view more

Population-Growth Patterns Paint Grim Picture for Democrats

U.S. News & World Report  online


“Unfortunately for the Democrats, a lot has changed over the last half century,” said Christopher Cooper, a political scientist at Western Carolina University. “Today the partisan outcome of almost every state is virtually assured before we even know the candidates.”

view more

Would term limits help fix our political system?

WFAE 90.7  


On the next Charlotte Talks, we break down the push for term limits in Congress, the Carolinas and across the country. We also examine what the founders thought about term limits and whether they would be a good idea for our political system. GUESTS: Chris Cooper, professor of political science and public affairs and director of the Public Policy Institute at Western Carolina University

view more

What the latest polling numbers tell us about the North Carolina race for governor

The Herald Sun  online


Western Carolina University politics professor Chris Cooper said the ECU poll simply shows that people know who Robinson is more than they know who the other Republican gubernatorial candidates are in the primary.

view more

How redistricting affects local candidates and voting districts

Mountain Xpress  online


“The goal in Buncombe is simply to carve out one Republican seat, and the same logic would apply to the County Commission,” says Chris Cooper, professor of political science and public affairs at Western Carolina University. “So it’s a good thing for the Republican Party.” That bill also expanded the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners from five to seven seats, requiring all but the chair to be elected by districts. The chair is elected countywide. “Putting it in districts helps the Republicans and then putting it in districts drawn by Republicans helps Republicans more,” Cooper notes.

view more

NC Gov. Roy Cooper, facing end of term, ups his profile as Biden surrogate

WRAL News  online


Western Carolina University political science professor Chris Cooper says the governor, who can’t run again in 2024 due to term limits, has little to lose from a closer relationship. “He's told us that he's probably not done,” he told WRAL News. “I don't think he is going to go just surfing every weekend and kind of call it a day. I think this is somebody who has a political future, that there's a possibility of him being in a Biden administration.”

view more

About that New York Times/Siena Poll

Old North State Politics  online


by Christopher Cooper Two days before the 2023 elections that will decide the next Governors of Mississippi and Kentucky, control of the Virginia and New Jersey legislatures, and the leaders of municipal governments in North Carolina and other states, the political world was gnashing teeth over....a poll about the 2024 Presidential election. The New York Times/Siena poll of six battleground states (excluding North Carolina, but I digress...) showed Donald Trump with a commanding lead over Joe Biden in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and within the margin of error in Wisconsin. It also showed Trump garnering support from almost a quarter of African American voters. After reading the results, it seemed as if every Democrat in America commenced to panicking and trashing the New York Times while everyone with a closet full of MAGA hats sang the praises of the New York Times and expressed faith in public opinion polls. Strange times we're living in. My takeaway: this poll reinforces that either Joe Biden or Donald Trump could win the 2024 Presidential election. That's it. Nothing more, and nothing less. Trump is not suddenly a favorite in 5 battleground states and he's certainly not up by 11 percentage points in Nevada. Nor is Biden favored in those states.

view more

Thousands register for new 'No Labels' party. Could they be unaffiliated voters making a mistake?

North Carolina Public Radio  online


Political scientist Chris Cooper of Western Carolina University said it’s possible that some of those voters meant to register as unaffiliated instead. "We can have some informed speculation that some of these folks may not really understand the position they're putting themselves in — that the unaffiliated, which of course sounds very similar, would mean that they can vote in the Democratic or the Republican primary, whereas No Labels will essentially disenfranchise them from the primary coming up this winter," Cooper said.

view more

Republicans flex muscles to maintain power in closely divided North Carolina and Wisconsin

Live Now Fox  


"The fact that these are both purple states is ironically what leads to the brass knuckles politics we see in Wisconsin and North Carolina," said Chris Cooper, a political scientist at Western Carolina University. In both states, he said, Republican politicians feel "they need to act because they could legitimately lose power."

view more

NC county boards of elections offer free voter identification for November elections

The Daily Tar Heel  online


Chris Cooper, a professor of political science and public affairs at Western Carolina University, said he is glad the requirement will be implemented during an odd election year before the 2024 nationwide election. “I think we will be able to tease out what the effects are much better this year, so we will know what to expect in 2024,” he said. Voters can submit an ID exception form while casting their ballot if they have a reasonable impediment to showing photo ID, a religious objection to being photographed or have been a victim of a natural disaster within the last 100 days, according to the North Carolina State Board of Elections. Cooper said while research on voter ID requirements shows mixed results on turnout in election cycles, there is no question the law introduces a barrier.

view more

The Unbelievably Bonkers Conspiracy Theorist Running For Governor Of North Carolina

Huff Post  online


Robinson has also modeled himself after Trump and appears to be trying to deflect all criticisms in the same way, said Chris Cooper, the Robert Lee Madison distinguished professor of political science and public affairs at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee. “It’s for the same reason Trump is under four indictments and is the leading candidate for the Republican nomination for the presidency,” Cooper said. “He’s the favorite because he’s the favorite. … The inflammatory rhetoric is already baked into people’s opinions of him. We already knew he was engaged in these types of behaviors. So every news story about Robinson doesn’t really provide the voter with new information. So he can continue to weather the storm.” Robinson is also charismatic, Cooper said, which has helped him to build a national profile and raise a lot of money. His race is a factor, too, he said.

view more

Gov. Cooper for VP? Experts say no, but another office might be in sight



“The Roy Cooper for VP Campaign is Fully Underway.” Carolina Partnership for Reform is making that argument, saying the Governor’s road trip to speak against new abortion legislation as well as his State of Emergency for education proves it. “I buy that he is certainly trying to play the rhetorical game that he’s using, the only power levers he has. But no, I don’t buy it for one second that he’s running for vice president,” said Chris Cooper, political science professor at Western Carolina University, who is of no relation to Roy Cooper.

view more

North Carolina redistricting ruling could be big win for Republicans in Congress

WFIN 95.5  online


“It’s a signal to the Republican supermajority that within some boundaries they can draw the maps they want,” said Chris Cooper, a Western Carolina University political science professor. “The Republicans don’t have a blank check, but there’s a lot in the bank account.”

view more

With new abortion restrictions set to take effect in NC, many wonder -- what's next?

WLOS  online


“This is exactly what the Democratic party feared,” says Chris Cooper, director of public policy at Western Carolina University. “This Republican majority can essentially do what they want to do. They have the votes.”

view more

As NC abortion bill advances, eyes shift to 2024 governor's race

WRAL News  online


“I don’t remember the last time Mark Robinson has refused to comment on anything, from the weather to public policy,” said Chris Cooper, a Western Carolina University professor who specializes in North Carolina politics. “So I think it is notable that he didn’t weigh in on the issue.”

view more

Political expert weighs in on Biden campaign as age, polling numbers come into question

WLOS  online


“I think a lot of folks, at least according to polls, would like to see somebody else," Cooper says. "I think the problem is that somebody else is not on the ballot, right? We got to have another candidate that people are willing to coalesce around. For the Democratic party, that's clearly not there. The appetite is not there for anyone other than Joe Biden. On the Republican ticket, we're just going to have to see. I think Donald Trump is certainly a front runner if not the frontrunner. We'll see if we do end up with somebody else like a DeSantis or a Haley, or a Tim Scott or some sort of a different name."

view more

Theresa Opeka: What Cotham’s switch to the GOP means for NC Democrats

Salisbury Post  online


“The question of course remains will her voting patterns change along with her party affiliation?” said Chris Cooper, professor of political science & public affairs at Western Carolina University, in a phone interview with Carolina Journal on Wednesday. “Abortion is an obvious example,” he said. “She’s been at the forefront of it because she made it clear that she was Pro-Choice in the past. Will she agree for some restrictions? Will she follow along with the Republican Party more often? I think these are the questions we all want to know the answer to.” Regarding Gov. Cooper’s veto power, Cooper says “It has no teeth,” making him a lame duck in most instances. Cooper said there’s also the question of her political future and if a Republican primary electorate will want to support a candidate who has been so vocally Pro-Choice and vocal on other issues that run counter to the mainstream of the Republican Party.

view more

Gov. Cooper signs long-awaited Medicaid expansion bill into law

WUNC 91.5  online


But even as North Carolina Republicans changed their minds on expansion, 10 other GOP-dominated states continue to be holdouts. Most are in the Southeast, including Florida and Georgia. Political scientist Chris Cooper of Western Carolina University says that could soon change. “I think it makes sense that some of our neighboring states might look to North Carolina and see how you can change your mind, and you can still keep your electoral fortunes,” Cooper said. “We're also seeing states like South Dakota — other Republican states, not in our region — at least put this to a vote of the people and also expand, so this is the rare kind of issue that’s becoming less partisan over time.”

view more

The Lead CNN

CNN  online


North Carolina's Republican-controlled Supreme Court will rehear two election-related cases that were decided on when Democrats held majority on the court. CNN's @DianneG reports.

view more

Local political analyst weighs in on State of the Union address



Western Carolina University political science professor Chris Cooper says leadership on both sides of the aisle are encouraging a bipartisan atmosphere. He says President Biden will focus on the economy.

view more


  • Keynote
  • Moderator
  • Panelist
  • Author Appearance

Research Focus (3)

State & Local Politics

Most of Cooper's scholarship is focused on the state and local levels. Some of this work is comparative across multiple states and localities, and some of it is focused specifically on the case of North Carolina. Some recent work in this area has examined misinformation related to state legislative salaries, the consequences of gubernatorial appointments of US Senators, and the adoption of Chief Diversity Officers in Local governments.

Southern Politics

As recent headlines over voting rights, confederate symbols, and the political relevance of southern identity can attest, southern politics remains distinct from politics in the rest of the country. Cooper's recent and current work in this area focuses on the politics of southern memory, the continued importance of southern identity, and the relevance of the southern accents in campaigns and elections.

Elections and Behavior

Cooper is interested in the ways in which citizens’ ideas and attitudes are translated into government action (or inaction). Some of his work in this area has examined the role of personality in shaping political attitudes and behaviors. Cooper is currently working on projects related to the effects of redistricting on representation, various aspects of election administration, and public opinion on voting access. Cooper is also working on a book manuscript examining the evolution of NC’s 11th congressional district.

Articles (5)

Heritage Versus Hate: Assessing Opinions in the Debate over Confederate Monuments and Memorials

Social Science Quarterly

2021 This study evaluates factors that might explain southerners’ opinions toward Confederate monuments.

view more

Innumeracy and State Legislative Salaries

Public Opinion Quarterly

2021 What do citizens know about state legislative salaries and how does correct information change opinions of legislators and what citizens believe to be their proper levels of compensation? Through an original experiment with more than 2,000 registered voters from four heterogeneous states, this paper provides evidence that the degree of innumeracy regarding state legislative salaries exceeds innumeracy regarding many other political facts.

view more

Switching sides but still fighting the Civil War in southern politics

Politics, Groups, and Identities

2020 It is well-established that the realignment of the past half-century sorted southern whites into the Grand Old Party (GOP) while southern blacks have remained stalwart Democrats. Surprisingly, however, there has been little systematic investigation of the relationship between party identification and opinions toward the South’s Confederate legacy.

view more

North Carolina’s close senate race is a puzzle in a purple state

USApp–American Politics and Policy Blog

2020 Many Americans have already begun voting in the 2020 election, not just for president, but for down-ballot races, such as for the US Senate. Chris Cooper looks at the race for North Carolina’s US Senate seat, writing that despite an early durable lead for Democratic challenger, Cal Cunningham, accusations of an extra-marital affair have given incumbent Republican Senator, Thom Tillis, an opportunity to disrupt his opponent’s lead.

view more

Analysis and comparison of lateral head impacts using various golf discs and a Hybrid III head form

Sports Biomechanics

2018 The potential for head injuries from discs specifically designed for the sport of disc golf has increased as more disc golf courses are constructed in municipal parks where there is an inherent risk to park users of being struck by a golf disc. This study investigated the potential for head injury of various golf discs used in the sport of disc golf at 18 m/s (40 mph) and 27 m/s (60 mph) using a Hybrid III head form.

view more