Thursday, June 9, 2016

LANDON DEFEATS ROOSEVELT

Republicans are scarce at elite universities today.  A recent poll of Harvard seniors found that only 4% said they would vote for Donald Trump in a race against Hillary Clinton.  Of course, some of that is Trump (although it's not directly relevant, I can't resist mentioning that he's involved in a dispute with the Harvard Lampoon), but only 19% said that they voted for Mitt Romney in 2012.  As I observed in a previous post, things used to be different:  in 1932, polls at 17 elite colleges and universities found a median of 63% for the Republican (Herbert Hoover), and only 17% for the Democrat (FDR), with 19% going to the Socialist candidate.  In 1936, there was an even more extensive series of polls conducted at almost 100 universities.  Unfortunately, I haven't been able to track down the complete list, but I have been able to find figures for twenty colleges and universities, mostly from the Vassar Miscellany News (Oct 31, 1936), supplemented by the Princeton Alumni Weekly (Nov 6, 1936).  Here they are, ranked from biggest margin for Roosevelt over Landon on down:

                             

                 Dem    Rep    Soc Comm
NYU              66% 20% 3%   1%
Columbia         57%    26%     6%  10%
Chicago          55% 29% 8%   8%
Johns Hopkins    54%    33%     7%   5%
Barnard         49%    37%     7%   5%
Radcliffe        52%    43%     2%   3%

Michigan         45.7%  46.3%   5%   3%
California       42%    46%     7%   5%
Harvard          45%    51%     3%   1%
Cornell          40%    52%     4%   3%
Bryn Mawr        39%    55%     5%   1%
Yale             33%    61%     4%   1%
Brown            33%    61%     3%   1%
Vassar           28%    61%     7%   4%
Smith            31%    61%     4%   1%
Dartmouth        28%    64%     5%   1%
Princeton        25%    70%     3%   0.5%
Amherst          24%    70%     5%   0.6%
Williams         19%    74%     4%   1%
Sarah Lawrence   13%    78%     7%   3%

Mean             39%    52%     5%   3.5%
National         60.8%  36.5%   0.4% 0.2%

The two small left-wing parties did much better among students at elite universities than among the public as a whole.  But a majority went for the Republicans, in a year when that party lost by what is arguably the biggest landslide in modern American history. 

It's sometimes said that class differences were sharper in 1936 than they had been in 1932.  To quote Archibald Crossley, one of the pioneers of opinion polling, "In 1932 there was a countrywide wave of protest against Hoover, reading into all income levels.  In 1936 anti-Roosevelt feeling ran high in the upper-income classes." Presumably students at these institutions were mostly from the upper income classes, but of the 14 that had conducted polls in 1932, Republican support fell in 11 of them, and fell by more than 5% at seven of them.  Of course, college students don't necessarily reflect the opinions of their parents, but I recall that one of the earliest Gallup polls asked about vote in 1932, and reported class differences were not noticeably weaker than they were in 1936. I'm not aware of any definite evidence that class differences increased.

The Socialist vote, which fell from 19% to 5% among elite college students between 1932 and 1936, fell from 2.3% to 0.4% among the general public (the socialist candidate was Norman Thomas in both elections).  So even if there wasn't a change in class alignments, it seems that there was a change in ideological alignments, in the sense that many progressives who had been skeptical of Roosevelt in 1932 were won over in 1936.  In the general public, the socialist vote was too small for this to make much difference, but it is something that people who were interested in politics would have noticed.

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