Degree Year

1976

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

History

Advisor(s)

Geoffrey Blodgett

Keywords

Ohio, Voters, Cuyahoga County (OH), Politics

Abstract

Political historians have traditionally been more interested in leaders than followers. But with the emergence of the 'new' political history, American historians began to explore the party bases of the American political structure. Historians such as Lee Benson, Richard Jensen. Paul Kleppner, Samuel McSeveney, and Ronald Formisano have written case studies of major shifts in the political parties during the middle and late nineteenth century. According to their research, the roots of American political partisanship grew out of the diverse ethnic, cultural, and religious identities of the voting populace.

Benson's pathbreaking investigation of New York voters in the 1844 election initiated a new approach to the study of popular voting behavior. Benson's book postulates that political party membership during the second American party system was determined by religious and cultural factors. Jensen, Kleppner, and McSeveney concentrate upon the latter half of the nineteenth century, particularly the critical elections of the l890's. All three emphasize the religious bases of partisanship and the shift in traditional party strongholds during the last decade of the century. The Democratic party of the Gilded Age, they argued, became the haven of religious pietists, groups unwilling to set the country's moral tone through governmental action. The Republican party, on the other hand, was 'composed primarily of evangelists, preaching for the 'good' of society. Formisano tackled a slightly different problem by analyzing the involvement and growth of mass political parties within the development of the second party system in Michigan, but he also concentrated upon social and religious determinants of political behavior.

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