Warm Springs Ran Deep: Friends-and-Neighbors Voting in the U.S. Presidential Elections of 1940 and 1944

By Mixon, Franklin G. | Journal of Politics and Law, June 2013 | Go to article overview

Warm Springs Ran Deep: Friends-and-Neighbors Voting in the U.S. Presidential Elections of 1940 and 1944


Mixon, Franklin G., Journal of Politics and Law


Abstract

The present study extends recent research on friends-and-neighbors voting in presidential elections by examining a unique situation occurring during the presidential elections of 1940 and 1944, both of which were won by incumbent President Franklin D. Roosevelt. What makes these elections unique is that Roosevelt, who grew up in Hyde Park, New York, contracted polio in 1921, and thereafter spent a large portion of his life in Warm Springs, Georgia, seeking the physical comfort provided by the magnesium-rich, warm-water pools. By the time these elections occurred, many Georgia citizens in and around Meriwether County, wherein Warm Springs is situated, viewed Roosevelt as one of their own. Statistical results from the 1940 and 1944 general elections presented in this study indicate that the home-area effect favoring Roosevelt in Meriwether and contiguous counties averaged a solid 7.8 percentage points across the two presidential elections. This result is even more striking when compared to the smaller home-area effect found for the Duchess County area of New York, which includes Roosevelt's boyhood home of Hyde Park.

Keywords: friends-and-neighbors voting, localism in voting, agency costs in representative government

"To a generation of west Georgians, [Franklin D. Roosevelt] was both the president and a trusted friend who could be seen waving as he passed by in his convertible or rode by in a train on his way to the nation's capital. . . He quickly grew to love Georgia and its people, and they welcomed him as their adopted son."

(Editors, 2009)

"To a Georgian far from home there was a sudden and bitter nostalgia for home at the news of the President's passing in Warm Springs. I could see the dogwood in bloom and the green of the trees. I knew that the peach blossoms were out and that the warm Georgia sun had been like a benediction to the tired body of the ailing president. And I wanted to be home with my own fellow Georgians as they mourned him . . ."

(Ralph McGill, 1945)

"The train pulled out from Warm Springs around 9:05 a.m. The windows on the train car holding Roosevelt's coffin were left open, and the coffin was easily visible. Thousands of people gathered along the tracks as the train made its way through south and central Georgia to Atlanta. Eleanor was surprised at the response of the people; she had never been an active participant in Roosevelt's Warm Springs ventures, and rarely stayed long on her visits there. But now she was deeply moved as she witnessed just how strongly the people of Georgia . . . loved him."

(USG, 2012)

1. Introduction

As in the provision of other goods and services, political representation, either through direct democracy or representative government, is not costless. Depending on the constitutional framework within which it operates, an electorate will incur varying levels of decision-making and agency costs when establishing a democratic system of government. In opting for representative democracy, an electorate is able to reduce the higher decision-making costs of direct democracy, which are those costs associated with gathering information on individual issues and voting on various referenda related to those issues. However, the reduction in decision-making costs is usually accompanied by an increase in agency costs. As Sass (1992: 407) indicates, agency costs - those that consist of expenditures meant to monitor and constrain representatives' (utility-maximizing) behavior plus the net costs to the electorate of undesired representatives' actions that remain - can be substantial, particularly when the preferences of the electorate and those of their representative diverge substantially. (Note 1)

Borrowing from Faith and Tollison's (1983) managerial hierarchies analogy (to elections), Kjar and Laband (2002) explain that the friend-and-neighbors (localism) voting phenomenon, wherein an electorate supports a local candidate who has lived in the political jurisdiction for many years, serves as a means of reducing the expected agency costs of representative government. …

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