Christopher A. Cooper is the Robert Lee Madison Distinguished Professor and director of the Public Policy Institute 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)
Writing and Editing
Areas of Expertise (7)
Parties, Campaigns and Elections
State and Local Government
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
University of Tennessee Knoxville: Ph.D.
University of Tennessee Knoxville: M.A.
Winthrop University: B.A.
Media Appearances (19)
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.
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.”
With new abortion restrictions set to take effect in NC, many wonder -- what's next?
“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.”
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.”
Political expert weighs in on Biden campaign as age, polling numbers come into question
“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."
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.
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.”
The Lead CNN
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.
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.
WCU professor discusses classified documents, debt ceiling
Political expert and Western Carolina University political science professor Chris Cooper said it's still too early to compare this case to the one involving former President Donald Trump. "I think it's still too early to know exactly what they have. I mean, this is the reason they have investigations is to learn what's really there, what's known," Cooper said. "I think it's too early to compare those empirically. I think politically this is a gift for Republicans."
Cawthorn’s transfer of work to new congressman at issue
“Really, the most important thing you can do, to be this liaison between your citizens and your federal government — to drop the ball on that, it’s a dereliction of duty,” said Chris Cooper, a political science professor at Western Carolina University. “This can literally be the difference between putting food on the table or not.”
2023 politics in WNC: State power and an almost supermajority
WFAE 90.7 Charlotte online
“This was a great year to be a Republican in Western North Carolina, as long as you don't live in Buncombe County,” said Cooper.
Senate boundaries drawn by Republican lawmakers must be redrawn, NC Supreme Court says
"What they’ve said here is that the map that was used in the last election was unconstitutional and needs to be altered until it is a fair map and one that passes constitutional muster,” Western Carolina University political science professor Dr. Chris Cooper said. “Let's keep in mind that this state Supreme Court only has about a month left on their term. The Republicans are going to take over the state Supreme Court and might rinse and repeat this once again, then.”
Western Carolina University political scientist Dr. Chris Cooper discusses why Democrats did well in congressional elections even as Republicans extended their control over state government
NC Policy Watch online
Western Carolina University political scientist Dr. Chris Cooper discusses why Democrats did well in congressional elections even as Republicans extended their control over state government on NC Policy Watch's Nov. 22 Podcast.
Tighter GOP grip on North Carolina legislature, high court limits Democrats' options
WRAL News online
“If we see a healthy majority but not a supermajority, I think we’re going to see much of what we’ve seen in recent years: The Republicans using the kinds of legislative action that are not subject to gubernatorial veto, redistricting and local bills,” said Chris Cooper, the director of the Public Policy Institute at Western Carolina University. “That will be where the action is. The state courts are less likely to put the breaks on redistricting.”
One Week to Go: What to watch in N.C. and nationally this election
Spectrum News online
"It’s going to be incredibly close,” said Western Carolina University Political Science Professor Chris Cooper. “Whoever wins isn’t going to win by a large margin. You’ve gotta say Ted Budd is the favorite, but he’s the light favorite."
Budd vs. Beasley: 'No big mic drop moment' in NC Senate debate, analyst says
“I think it was a bit of a tie. I don’t think there was a big zinger,” Cooper said. “There was no movement that’s going to be amplified and played over and over. There was no big mic drop moment. I think this is going to continue to be an incredibly close race. I don’t think there was a lot of movement in this debate.”
There are 2.5 million unaffiliated voters in North Carolina. So why aren’t there more unaffiliated candidates?
Blue Ridge Public Radio online
“So, it's a lot to do just to get on the ballot. And then, hey, once you're on the ballot, you've got to remind people to vote for you without any sort of party backing,” explains Cooper.
NC Elections Board certifies Green Party; Democrats to sue
North Carolina Public Radio online
"None of us expect the Green Party candidate to win this election but that's not the goal for them," said Prof. Chris Cooper, political scientist and director of the Public Policy Institute at Western Carolina University.
- 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.
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.
Heritage Versus Hate: Assessing Opinions in the Debate over Confederate Monuments and MemorialsSocial Science Quarterly
2021 This study evaluates factors that might explain southerners’ opinions toward Confederate monuments.
Innumeracy and State Legislative SalariesPublic 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.
Switching sides but still fighting the Civil War in southern politicsPolitics, 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.
North Carolina’s close senate race is a puzzle in a purple stateUSApp–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.
Analysis and comparison of lateral head impacts using various golf discs and a Hybrid III head formSports 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.