Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School



In many ways the election of 1972 was one of the most unusual in American history. Precisely one decade after a bitter resignation from politics, a Republican president, the nominee of a minority party, won reelection with an astonishing 61 percent of the national popular vote. The name of Richard Nixon thus joins those of the winners of comparable landslide victories in the Twentieth Century--Harding in 1920, Hoover in 1928, Roosevelt in 1936, and Johnson in 1964. The electoral victory was perhaps even more astonishing than the popular vote. Mr. Nixon swept 521 of the S38 electoral votes, his opponent, Senator McGovern, carrying only one state and the District of Columbia. The Nixon victory encompassed all regions of the country and nearly all subgroups of the population. The once Democratic Solid South voted solidly for Nixon by over 70 percent. He carried the Midwest and Far West with margins exceeding 60 percent and won in the liberal Northeast with 59 percent of the vote. Mr. Nixon very nearly became the first Republican presidential candidate in 48 years to carry New York City. Middle and upper income Americans voted Republican by margins ranging from 65 to 75 percent, while Senator McGovern won the low-income vote by a 58-42 majority. The ethnic vote, traditionally heavily Democratic, was more equally split in 1972. Nixon won the Italian vote with 57 percent and more than doubled his 1968 percentage of Jewish and black voters, though McGovern still won both groups by substantial margins. First-time voters, aged 18-24, split their votes fairly equally, 52 percent for McGovern and 48 percent for Nixon. The. older age groups voted heavily for Nixon. Virtually all occupational groups, with the exception·of normally Democratic blue-collar workers, supported Mr. Nixon on election day. Even then, McGovern and Nixon scored an equal split of the blue-collar vote, and a majority of members of labor union families voted for the Republican presidential candidate for the first time since reliable election data became available in the 1930's. The results of the election were no less interesting. The purpose of the study, then, is to determine whether a person votes for those candidates who are perceived as representing his economic self-interest, or whether other factors, interests, or forces overshadow material welfare as the primary determinant in voting decisions. Alternatively stated, it is to ascertain whether the assumed "rationality" of economic decision-making is also applicable to political decisions. To this end, it is appropriate at this time to examine briefly the economic programs of the presidential candidates and their respective parties.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Presidents -- United States -- Election -- 1972

South Dakota State University Theses



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South Dakota State University