Crunching electoral data to re-elect Herbert Hoover

Annie G. Lyle and Archive Rice, Political Sentiment Map Of United States [:] WHAT POLITICIANS DON’T KNOW. San Francisco and Washington, D. C., 1931.
Broadside, map (9 ¼”h x 14 ¾”w) printed in black and red surmounting two lines of headline type and three columns of text and tables on a 27 ¼”h x 16 ½”w sheet. Very faint overall toning and a short split along one fold. About excellent.

An extremely rare broadside by two fans of Herbert Hoover, analyzing the results of the 1928 presidential election and revealing some of the less appealing elements of the politics of Prohibition.

The 1928 election was fought between Democrat Al Smith, Governor of New York, and Republican Herbert Hoover, an engineer, businessman and Secretary of Commerce for eight years under Harding and Coolidge. Hoover ran on both his personal reputation for competence and the Republican record of peace and prosperity, while Smith was handicapped by his Catholicism and open opposition to National Prohibition. The result was a landslide, with Hoover winning 58 percent of the popular vote and 444 of 531 electoral votes. Smith took only Massachusetts, Rhode Island and six states in the Deep South, a Democratic bastion since Reconstruction.

Offered here is an unusual broadside by two college classmates of Hoover, analyzing in detail the results of the 1928 election and offering insights for Republicans planning the 1932 campaign. It is signed in print by Annie Galloway Lyle (1870-1948) and Archie Rice, both of whom graduated with Hoover in the Stanford University Class of 1895. Rice pursued a career as a journalist, while Lyle gained a medical degree at Johns Hopkins in 1902 and went on to become one of San Francisco’s most distinguished physicians. The two apparently supported both of Hoover’s presidential campaigns, and indeed Lyle remained close enough to him that in late 1931 or early 1932 visited the White House as a guest of the First Couple. (Mill Valley Record, Jan. 22, 1932, p. 1)

At the top of the broadside is a large thematic map of the United States depicting the 1928 results county-by-county, with counties in red having gone for Hoover and those in black for Smith. A variety of shading is used to differentiate counties where the contest was relatively close, with the winner getting 50-55 percent of the vote, from those where the winner achieved more than 55 percent. The primary message is that Hoover dominated across the country, with the exception of the South, where he lost Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina, and of major cities such as heavily-Catholic Boston and Tammany-dominated New York, where Smith overperformed.

The text below the map covers a lot of ground and does not pursue a sustained argument, but rather reads as a jumble of observations and recommendations for Republican politicians and operatives planning the upcoming campaign. What holds the document together are strong support for National Prohibition (the cause of the “Drys”); the use of data every step of the way, with much cross-tabulating of voting patterns with a wide range of demographic information; and thinly-veiled (at best) classism, nativism and racism.

Consider the first section, titled “Partisan Power, Intelligence, and Prejudices in Each State”. It consists entirely of a table of election results grouped by state and region (Western, “Midland”, Southern and Eastern), complemented by an interesting variety of demographic data for each. The South, the only region where Smith ran well—and particularly the six Southern states he won—is marked relatively by high rates of illiteracy and Ku Klux Klan membership and low rates of voter turnout and car and radio ownership. The implicit argument confuses correlation with causation, implying that Smith did well in this region because its population was relatively uneducated, unengaged, poor and racist.

Other subjects examined include “The Fluctuating Danger Zone”, a look at what we would now call “swing” counties; “Big City Sentiment Analyzed”, which examines Smith’s strength in large cities with significant Catholic, Jewish, Hispanic and/or African-American populations; “Paid Propaganda Versus Silent Sentiment”, a jumble of statistics rather than a sustained argument; “Classes of People in Each of Four Regional Groups”, which looks at racial, religious and other differences across the country; “Wet-Dry Tests”, which argues, among other things that high turnout, particularly by newly-enfranchised women, is necessary to ensure a “Dry” outcome; and “Democratic Chances of Victory”, which assesses that party’s slim chances of victory in the upcoming 1932 election.

Bizarrely, not once do authors Lyle and Rice mention the ongoing economic collapse now known as the Great Depression. Already in 1930 the American economy had shrunk by more than eight percent and unemployment risen to nearly nine percent; in 1931, the year this broadside was issued, the economy would shrink further and unemployment rise to nearly 16 percent. For all of Hoover’s vaunted competence, the Federal government’s response ranged from inadequate to disastrous (such as raising income tax rates to close a budget deficit!) Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt won in an even more lopsided landslide than Hoover’s of just four years earlier.

OCLC 23457024 (Univ. of California-Berkeley), and 1247383325 (Univ. of Illinois), as of March 2024.