Matthew A. Baum

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Economic Class and Popular Support for Franklin Roosevelt in War and Peace   (with Sam Kernell)

Presidential popularity research has treated public opinion as a monolithic entity. Yet research in economics suggests that different sectors of society may respond differently to external events. History has judged FDR as one of America's greatest leaders in large part because he maintained his popularity throughout the Depression and World War II. During this era, the primary explanatory variables in presidential popularity scholarship ? the economy and war ? assumed their most extreme values of the twentieth century. Yet FDR’s public support has received little systematic attention. Compiling partially disaggregated time-series data from 1937 to 1943, we investigate FDR’s popular support among different economic classes during both national crises. We find that Roosevelt's peacetime support divided along class lines; while during the war class divisions blurred. Roosevelt's popular support was indeed conditioned by external events, refracted through the interests of different societal groups. We conclude that public support for modern presidents should be similarly studied as the sum of opinions among heterogeneous constituencies.

This article is available for download on JSTOR here.

The time-series data for this article is available for download as an Excel file here .

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