Did the New Deal Solidify the 1932 Democratic Realignment?

Shawn Kantor, Price V. Fishback, John Joseph Wallis

NBER Working Paper No. 18500
Issued in November 2012
NBER Program(s):   DAE   POL

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 variables estimates indicate that increasing a county's per capita New Deal relief and public works spending from nothing to the sample mean ($277) would have increased the long-run support for the Democratic party by 10 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, however, did matter for the long-term.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w18500


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