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1932 Election

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1932 Election

During one of the darkest periods in American history, voters made a clear choice to change the leadership in Washington, D.C. Amid the lows of the Great Depression, the 1932 Presidential election in the United States was a strong referendum on the current president's handling of the economic woes afflicting the nation. The majority of voters hoped the "New Deal" promised by the Democratic candidate would quicken the recovery that was begun under the Republican incumbent candidate. In this article, we will look at the two major candidates, examine the results and major issues as well as reflect on the significance of this pivotal election.

The 1932 Presidential Election Candidates

1932 presidential election, Photograph of Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt at the 1933 Presidential Inauguration, StudySmarter

1933 Presidential Inauguration Hoover (left) and Roosevelt (right). Source: Architect of the Capitol, AOC on Wikimedia Commons.

1932 Republican Candidate: Herbert Hoover

The U.S. President in 1932 was Herbert Hoover. Hoover had a humble past with a time as an orphan and a Quaker upbringing. With a degree from Stanford and an extensive mining and business background, he earned a reputation for efficiency and practicality. He then served as Secretary of Commerce from 1921 until 1928 when he was elected President. In his first term, the stock market crashed in 1929. Hoover attempted to address the Great Depression that soon followed but not without issues that reflected negatively on his popularity.

While most Americans did not blame Hoover for the Great Depression, distressed citizens ridiculed the President and his failure to reverse the course of the Depression in many ways. Shantytowns across the nation were called "Hoovervilles" and newspapers used as bedding were called 'Hoover blankets' as a way to attack him on the public opinion.

1932 presidential election, Photograph of Herbert Hoover from 1928 presidential Inauguration, StudySmarter

1928 Photo from the Library of Congress of Herbert Hoover. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

1932 Democratic Candidate: Franklin Roosevelt

The Democratic candidate for the 1932 Presidential election led a life of wealthy privilege. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, widely recognized by the acronym "FDR," was devoted to government service. He served as a State Senator from New York, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and through regular election as Governor of New York State. The Stock Market Crash in October 1929 and the resulting economic depression hit N.Y. hard. The state was the nation's most populous and had both significant manufacturing and agricultural industries. As Governor, Roosevelt attempted to manage the economic situation with minimal success as the problems of the Depression were both national and international.

Did you know that in 1921, FDR became seriously ill and was diagnosed with polio? Despite therapies, he was paralyzed from the waist down and required aid from assistants to give speeches. His use of crutches and eventually a wheelchair was unknown to most of the general public as media tradition was to avoid sensationalizing and discuss of disabilities.

1932 presidential election, photograph of New York Governor Franklin Roosevelt in 1930, StudySmarter

1930 photo of N.Y. Gov. Roosevelt. Source: National Archives via Wikimedia Commons.

1932 Presidential Election Issues

Hoover's Campaign Plan

During the campaign, Hoover reiterated his plan for economic recovery through fiscal conservativism. Essentially, by maintaining America's currency basis on the 'gold standard' and ensuring a balanced federal budget, America would maintain stability and recovery emerge as companies hired workers. By the third year of the Depression, the Republican Party nominated Hoover again to the ticket and continued a platform of reserved government intervention.

Hoover believed in individual responsibility and the value of hard work and reassured Americans the crisis would resolve. The Republican Party continued to urge local and state organizations including the Red Cross, YMCA, Salvation Army as well as religious institutions and soup kitchens to assist the poor rather than the federal government. By 1932, Congress passed and Hoover signed into law the creation of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation that provided financial assistance to the nation's banks and insurers. To the public eye, Hoover came across as stern and reserved, with a sparse and stiff smile.

Roosevelt's Campaign Plan

I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people."

–From Roosevelt's 1932 Democratic Party Convention Speech. Source: Library of Congress

Roosevelt's 1932 presidential platform, known as the "New Deal", planned for expansive, direct federal assistance and centralized programs. As public unhappiness over Prohibition was widespread, FDR called for its end. Roosevelt highlighted the 13 million Americans out of work and urged a more active federal approach. Specific groups such as farmers and industrial workers were targeted for direct government assistance. In contrast to his political opponent, Roosevelt was more genial and smiled broadly when in public.

Criticism of the New Deal

Roosevelt's New Deal was a bold plan criticized as too radical and drastic in expanding the scope and power of the federal government. Critics argued higher federal spending and regulation would harm the economy in the long term. Historians have noted some economic improvement after many Roosevelt policies were implemented. Conversely, those effects were short-term and did not end the Great Depression. The war industry during World War Two ended America's worst economic period.

Hoover had to run on his policy of addressing the record unemployment figures, bank and stock failures, and growing poverty. Roosevelt was able to position his presidential bid as the experienced outsider who could lead the nation out of the Great Depression. On the campaign trail, FDR blamed the Depression on Hoover and Republicans in Congress. In addition, he offered vague but hopeful plans for economic recovery, relief, and reform. The question was whether or not voters wanted to change leadership during a crisis and if Roosevelt offered a new course and leadership style.

Many voters were unhappy with the major party candidates and their plans. In the 1932 election, the Socialist candidate received 882,000 votes, while a Communist candidate received 103,000 votes.

1932 Presidential Election Results

CANDIDATEPARTYELECTORAL VOTESPOPULAR VOTES
✔ Franklin D. RooseveltDemocrat47222,821,857
Herbert Hoover (incumbent)Republican5915,761,841
Table of 1932 U.S. Presidential Election Results. StudySmarter Original.

Did you know? According to the 1930 U.S. Census, there were 122,775,046 citizens. The population was increasing by 15 to 20% every ten years.

1932 Presidential Election Map

1932 presidential election, Map of 1932 U.S. Presidential Election Electoral College Results. StudySmarter1932 Presidential Election - Electoral College Results. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

1932 Presidential Election Significance

The significance of this election stands today. The election of Roosevelt ushered in one of the most expansive shifts in federal power. The New Deal would expand the federal role in economic matters and shift the responsibility of action from the private sector and states to Washington, D.C. The voters signaled a willingness to accept a bold national strategy with a positive, unflappable leader. While many did not lose faith in Hoover or his policies, enough voters were swayed to try a new approach. The costs of higher budget deficits, increased government regulation, and tariff policies would later be considered as the Depression lingered on into Roosevelt's second term.

The Democratic Party also brought into its ranks new voting blocs from union workers, many farmers, Catholics, and Jews, while solidifying its base of Southern voters and blacks. The resulting movement of the Democrats toward more liberal policy was striking. The rejection of Hoover and conservative policies were felt beyond the White House. In the Congressional election, the Democrats also took control of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

1932 Election - Key takeaways

  • Herbert Hoover, the Republican was running for re-election against Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Democratic challenger.
  • The election took place during the Great Depression, the worst economic period in U.S. history.
  • Roosevelt, the Governor of N.Y., planned for a "New Deal" for America while Hoover aimed to continue a less interventionist federal approach.
  • Roosevelt's New Deal would expand the role of the federal government in providing direct relief and instituting economic reforms.
  • Roosevelt easily beat Hoover winning 472 electoral votes to Hoover's 59.
  • The election would mark a change in government economic policy and dramatically expand the power and size of the federal government.

Frequently Asked Questions about 1932 Election

Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Democratic candidate won the 1932 presidential election over the Republican Herbert Hoover. 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, FDR, won the election as he received more electoral and popular votes.  His message of economic recovery appealed to more voters. 

Hoover lost the election as he received fewer electoral and popular votes. Hoover received 7 million fewer votes than he did in 1928, showing the view of many voters that change was necessary and Roosevelt offered a different plan. 

The Election of 1932 was important as the winner was faced with addressing the economic hardships of the Great Depression. The Democratic Party also changed composition, expanding its liberal base with different voting groups. 

Two clear party choices offered voters two options: a more active federal government or more active states and local entities. Roosevelt won the election.

Final 1932 Election Quiz

Question

What political party did Hoover represent?

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Answer

Republican

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Question

What political party did Roosevelt represent?

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Answer

Democrat

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Question

What was not an outcome of the 1932 election?

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Answer

Hoover left the White House?

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Question

A voter in 1932 who supported individual responsibility and limited government who have likely voted for which candidate?

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Answer

Hoover

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Question

What was the name for Roosevelt's new set of federal policies called?

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Answer

The New Deal

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Question

What was a Hooverville?

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Answer

A shantytown where poor people lived

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Question

Which of the following was a job held by Roosevelt?

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Answer

Mayor of N.Y.C.

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Which of the following was a job held by Hoover?

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Answer

President of Stanford College

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Question

What challenge did Hoover face in his first year of office?

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Answer

The Great Depression (and stock market crash)

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Question

Supporting farmers with direct financial assistance would have been a likely campaign promise of which candidate?

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Answer

Hoover

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Question

Which candidate was known for more lively public appearances?

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Answer

Roosevelt

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Question

All Americans cast their vote for the New Deal candidate in 1932.

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Answer

True

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Question

The 1932 election was noteworthy in that it expanded the Democratic Party base and broadened the power of the federal government.

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Answer

True

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