Why were Maine and Vermont so resistant to FDR?

I understand that they were traditionally Republican strongholds; but plenty of other very Republican states made exceptions for FDR (in 1936 in particular).

When I look at the other contrarians in presidential blowouts over the past century, they make sense: the Deep South states in '64 opposed LBJ’s civil rights platform, and Arizona was Goldwater’s home state; Massachusetts was the only state liberal enough to go for McGovern; Mondale eked out victory in his home state of Minnesota. But the reason for FDR’s lack of appeal in those two New England states is unclear.

I’d imagine some of it was just force of habit. VT voted Republican in every election from Buchannan to Eisenhower.

Plus the New Deal coalition consisted of:

Which is a pretty huge block of voters, but none of those groups were particularly prevalent in white rural northern states, of which Maine and VT are pretty much the only examples (IIRC, NH was actually pretty industrialized)

The other “very Republican” states that made exceptions (except Michigan) weren’t as “very Republican” as Maine and Vermont.

Before the Great Depression, Republicans had been regularly racking up percentages in the 70’s in Maine and Vermont. They could lose tons of ground (as they did, since Landon scored only about 57% in both states) and still win. Coolidge’s percentages in 1924 were Maine 72%, Vermont 78%, Michigan 75%, and nowhere else more than 65%.

Michigan did flip by 1932–it was already becoming a one-industry state, and that industry was hammered by labor strife and the Great Depression. It’s unusual for a state to flip that much that quickly. Maine and Vermont were more normal–they moved Democratic as the country moved, but not by so much as to overturn a preference which had been in the 70’s.

Did the Republicanism of ME and VT actually date back to the Civil War? The NE was where abolitionism was the strongest. From Lincoln to 1936 was only 72 years.

Southeast NH, mostly, especially around Manchester and down to the coast. Lawrence, MA isn’t that far from the border, and I would be very surprised if there still weren’t memories from the 1912 Bread and Roses strike echoing around.

Thanks guys! Good info! Freddy, where do you get your state-by-state numbers? I can only find those for more recent elections; would love to get detailed breakdowns going way back (county level would be even better). So your case, which seems pretty persuasive, is that it’s simple, really: to make a topographical analogy, Maine and Vermont were the mountain peaks of GOP support in previous elections, so in the 1930s the swiftly rising tide of support for the Democrats left those peaks as isolated islands. That about right?

Hari, you probably have a good point there about abolitionism. My impression had been that by 1936 FDR had pulled off the amazing feat of pulling black voters into his coalition (and one would expect civil rights-supporting whites to follow suit) while not (yet) losing the Southern white segregationists; but I was only able to find this source which describes FDR as getting only 23% of the black vote in 1932. The article describes the shift as occurring between '32 and '36, but frustratingly no numbers are given until Truman’s 70% in '48 (at which point Maine and Vermont still went Republican, it should be noted).

Simplico, I like too your characterisation of “white rural northern” states being the only ones that wouldn’t fit into that broad New Deal coalition you described. This seems spot on; but wouldn’t Washington, Minnesota, and Wisconsin also fit that bill? Or were Seattle, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Milwaukee all even then all big enough to scotch that descriptor?

Well put, yes. Of course, one can then push back the question and ask, why were Maine and Vermont so Republican in the first place, that the party could lose 20 points during the Depression and still win?

That’s a little harder to answer. The preference had its roots in Yankee abolitionism before the Civil War; even in 1860 Lincoln’s best state was, guess what, Vermont. Vermont had abolished slavery even before the other states recognized it as a state, during the American Revolution. It was probably the least industrialized New England state, with none of the ties to the South which created “Cotton Whigs” in Massachusetts. Likewise to a lesser degree with Maine.

After the Civil War, Maine and Vermont didn’t change much. The poor soil and limited industry attracted few immigrants, so neither state had many Catholics who in that era were usually Democrats. (Maine did attract a few Catholic French Canadians.) Both states were dominated by Yankee small farmers and (in Maine) fishermen who found GOP small government congenial and saw little reason to deviate from the preferences of their fathers and grandfathers.

For online state-by-state results see here.

Love the detail (and that site), thanks! Are you a history teacher/professor, or just a well-read buff?

Now, yes, In the 1930s, though? Southern NH is now basically part of the metropolitan Boston area*, but I don’t think that was the case 80 years ago.

*Don’t hate me for saying that, New Hampshire-ites!

Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections
Provides general election numbers and graphics going back to 1789.

County data is avaible back to 1912 but it is for-pay and expensive.

FDR decisively won every segregationist state in all four of his general election campaigns.
I read he made a deal with the South allowing him to make one pro Civil rights speech per year.
This restriction did not apply to his wife however, and she was an ardent supporter of Civil rights.

The 1948 Democratic convention adaopted a Civil rights plank so strong that it split the party,
with many of the most hard-core segregationists running a separate ticket led by SC Senator Strom Thurmond.
Truman also integrated the armed forces. These and other actions probably resulted in the
overwhelming 70% Black support for the Democrats. Eisenhower was able to win many back,
including possibly Dr. M.L. King. However, the 1960 Democratic ticket was percieved as more
strongly supporting King in the 1960 election, and since then Blacks have voted Democratic
by over 90% of votes cast.

It might be more a part of Greater Boston today, but Manchester and southern NH were always industrial. Manchester was founded as a milling and manufacturing city and named after its counterpart in England for that reason.

Just a buff. You’ll find many of us here!

In Minnesota, the Twin Cities area is about 50% of the population. It was less then, but still the major population center. It votes consistently Democratic.

Then there is the northern Iron Range. White (ethnic) and rural-level population, but a heavily unionized mining industry. And the unions pushed Democratic votes.

Finally, the southern & western part of Minnesota is rural. But those areas had suffered greatly in Hoover’s Great Depression, and many were hesitant to vote for Republicans. Also, at that time, the Farmer-Labor third party waw quite strong in Minnesota, and attracting a lot of votes.