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An Analysis of the 1932 Presidential Vote in Chicago

  • Harold F. Gosnell (a1) and Norman N. Gill (a1)

In many ways, the city of Chicago is typical of the United States as a whole in the twentieth century. It is a cross-section of the mixture of races, religions, sects, linguistic groups, and economic classes that go to make up modern America. In the past two decades, the political behavior of the citizens of Chicago in national elections has been similar to that of the entire American electorate. Except for the election of 1916, when Hughes carried the city by a narrow margin, the presidential candidate who carried Chicago also carried the electoral college.

At irregular intervals, there have occurred in American party history certain crucial presidential elections which appear to have set the party alignments for several decades. The election of 1896 was such an election, since it determined the supremacy of the Republican party for a period of a quarter of a century, interrupted only by the Wilson Administration, which came to power because of a split in the Republican ranks. A new era in American politics was definitely started by the election of 1932 which ended the Republican dominance. An intensive study of the behavior of the voters in Chicago during this political upheaval will throw some light upon the motivation of the voters in the entire United States.

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1 The interview method which was employed in the Non-Voting (Chicago, 1924) and my Getting Out the Vote (Chicago, 1927) studies was very expensive. It is one thing to ask a citizen why he did not vote and quite another thing to ask a voter why he voted as he did.

2 One of the authors has been collecting political biographies.

3 Election returns were obtained from the Chicago Daily News Almanac and Yearbook, the Public Service Leader, and the records of the Board of Election Commissioners of Chicago; census data, from Burgess, E. W. and Newcomb, C. (eds.), Census Data of the City of Chicago, 1930 (Chicago, 1933). The authors are indebted to Miss Margaret J. Schmidt for aid in the computations.

4 Ogburn, W. F. and Talbot, N. S., “A Measurement of the Factors in the Presidential Election of 1928,” Social Forces, Vol. 8, pp. 175183 (December, 1929); Wooddy, C. H., The Case of Frank L. Smith (Chicago, 1930), Appendix, pp. 364382.

5 An attempt was made also to include the 1931 ward lines, but it was discovered that these lines cut across many of the census communities.

6 The coëfficient of correlation between the Smith vote and the Lewis vote, τab =.78.

7 For an interesting analysis of the 1915 mayoralty vote, using the separate figures, see Kelley, T., Statistical Method (New York, 1924), p. 183.

8 In the 1932 election, the total number of votes cast was 1,423,074; the total number of straight votes was 831,596, of which 533,801 were Democratic and 297,795 were Republican.

9 Art. IV, paragraph 18.

10 Issues of November 3, 1930.

11 Issues of November 3, 1930.

12 Op. cit., pp. 299–312 and 313–326.

13 Women's Civic Council, A Partial Record of the Conduct of Elections in Chicago and Cook County from December 1922 to June 1934 (Chicago, 1934).

14 Per cent native white of foreign or mixed parentage and foreign-born white from countries of origin which are held to be Catholic (Irish Free State, Belgium, France, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Lithuania, Italy, and French Canada) of the total population. Op. cit., pp. 191–233, 245–298.

15 Ibid., pp. 567–594.

16 Ibid., pp. 477–537, and the 1931 figures secured through the courtesy of Joseph F. Veseley.

17 In a later study, data from the 1934 census will be employed.

18 The William Hale Thompson faction of the Republican party nominated its candidate for governor (Len Small) in 1932, but not in 1928.

19 This was especially true in the 24th ward, which roughly coincides with census community 30. It was true also in the 5th and 46th wards on the West Side.

20 Census community 24.

21 Census communities 1, 39, 41, 75.

22 In a near West Side ward.

22a In this connection, the ordinary regression equations for the Roosevelt vote as a function of these variables are of interest. Xc = 20.92 +.8221 Xa, Xc = 9.74 +.9184 Xe Xc = −49.40 + 1.439 Xg, Xc = 46.74 +.4883 Xj Xc = 41.05 + .7904 Xm. The standard errors of estimate for each of these equations are: Sc.a =4.6, Sc.a = 8.1, Se.g = 10.3, Sc.j = 8.2, Sc.m =8.6.

22b Many statisticians prefer to use the equation of net regression for problems like the present one. The equation is: Xc = 2.69 + .5428 Xa + .2242 Xc + .2002 Xg, + .0253 Xj + .1063 Xm. Its standard error of estimate is: Sc.aegjm = 3.8747. The parameters of this equation place the variables in the same order of importance in determining Xa, as do the coëfficients of partial correlation.

23 Economic influences were referred to as “depression psychology,” “anti-Hoover” sentiment, a “craze” to throw out the “ins.”

24 Ogburn and Talbot, op. cit.

25 The word “factor” is used in the following technical sense. A factor is a reference variable in terms of which given variables can be expressed as linear functions. See Thurstone, L. L., The Vectors of Mind (Chicago, 1935).

26 The residuals were so small that they could be neglected. The centroid method was employed.

27 A coëfficient of correlation may be expressed as the cosine of the central angle between two points on the circumference of a circle.

28 The term “factor loading” refers to the degree to which each variable is loaded or weighted with a general factor (or reference variable).

28 The sum of the squares of the loadings for each variable gives what is called h 2, or the communality. It represents what that variable has in common with all the other variables in the table (I) lh 2 = u 2, or uniqueness of the variable.

29 Holcombe, A. N., Political Parties of Today (New York, 1929).

30 The present study has concentrated on the presidential election of 1932. The materials presented also throw light on such topics as the operation of universal suffrage, the operation of woman suffrage, the operation of direct law-making devices, and the operation of the Illinois election law. Below are some of the conclusions that might be drawn from the data:

Operation of certain expedients, electoral devices, in metropolitan community

1. Universal suffrage

A lack of property qualifications for voting does not mean that those with little or no property will invariably vote for the candidates who promise the most liberal spending, i.e., economic considerations are not completely controlling in voting behavior.

The party organizations are the most active agencies in stirring the eligible voter to register and vote.

Interest in voting as measured by per cent of adult citizens registered varies inversely with economic status.

2. Woman suffrage

Women tend to vote in the same way that men vote, except for minor variations.

Women of higher economic status show more interest in voting than women of inferior economic status.

Women are more favorable to measures regulating public morals (prohibition) than men.

Women tend to be slightly more conservative than men.

Women tend to be slightly more independent of party organizations than men.

3. Direct law-making

Home-owners (tax-conscious on bond issues) tend to vote against bond issues which are opposed by civic organizations.

The success of a proposition depends in large part on the attitude of the party organizations.

4. Election administration

The use of the straight-ticket provision of the Illinois ballot law tends to vary directly with foreign birth, unemployment, and Catholic origins and indirectly with the proportion of women voters and median rental. In other words, the poorer the voters are, the fewer women among them, the more persons of Catholic origins, the more likely they are to vote a straight pacty ticket.

A periodic personal system of registration of voters in an American urban community without adequate provisions for identifying the voter or canvassing the lists results in considerable fraud in the depreciated residential areas.

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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
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