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Did the New Deal solidify the 1932 Democratic realignment?

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  • Kantor, Shawn
  • Fishback, Price V.
  • Wallis, John Joseph

Abstract

The critical election of 1932 represented a turning point in the future electoral successes of the Democrats and Republicans for over three decades. This paper seeks to measure the importance of the New Deal in facilitating the Democrats' control of the federal government well into the 1960s. We test whether long-differences in the county-level electoral support for Democratic presidential candidates after the 1930s can be attributed to New Deal interventions into local economies. We also investigate more narrowly whether voters rewarded Roosevelt from 1932 to 1936 and from 1936 to 1940 for his efforts to stimulate depressed local economies. Our instrumental variable estimates indicate that increasing a county's per capita New Deal relief and public works spending from nothing to the sample mean ($145) would have increased the long-run support for the Democratic party by 2 to 2.5 percentage points. We further find that the long-run shift toward the Democratic party after 1928 was not a function of the Roosevelt landslide victory in 1932. Roosevelt's ability to win over voters during the 1936 and 1940 elections with New Deal spending, however, did matter for the long-term.

Suggested Citation

  • Kantor, Shawn & Fishback, Price V. & Wallis, John Joseph, 2013. "Did the New Deal solidify the 1932 Democratic realignment?," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 50(4), pages 620-633.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:50:y:2013:i:4:p:620-633
    DOI: 10.1016/j.eeh.2013.08.001
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    Keywords

    New Deal; Great Depression; Political economy; Voting; 1932 realignment;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • E65 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Studies of Particular Policy Episodes
    • N42 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

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