In December 1936, Dr. George Gallup -- founder and then director of the American Institute of Public Opinion, the forerunner of the Gallup poll -- asked a national sample of Americans, "Do you think the Republican Party is dead?" Fortunately for the GOP, just 27% thought it was; although, in a follow-up question, only 31% believed it would win the next presidential election.
This line of inquiry was born out of President Franklin Roosevelt's landslide victory in the 1936 election. Roosevelt's re-election, and the diverse geographic, ethnic and religious coalition it was based on, left a stunned GOP facing some of the same questions about its future that it did after President Barack Obama's less sweeping victory in 2012.
Dr. Gallup's analysis of survey respondents' verbatim comments suggests Americans' advice for the Republican Party was just as varied then as we might expect today. Here are some tidbits from Dr, Gallup's Jan. 9, 1937, news release about the poll:
The first thing a beaten party looks for is a new leadership to efface the memory of defeat. Many Republicans believe that Governor Landon would win if nominated again in 1940, but a majority think not. The most frequent suggestion recorded in the Institute's survey is, "Develop new leaders."
… from Maine to California the voters are labeling the party leadership of the 1920s as "dead wood" and "old guard."
How liberal should the more conservative of America's two parties be? The nation's post-depression mood has made liberalism popular, and a large section of Republican opinion today believes the party's road must follow the liberal line.
Unless the Republicans want to flout public opinion they will have to write into their platform liberal concessions to social security.
"Study the needs of the masses of the people," submits a typical New England Republican.
"Break a little with the interests of big business and get the sympathy of the common man again," says another Republican.
Many Republicans are satisfied with the fundamental policies of their party and believe that a stand-pat attitude during the next four years will return them to office in 1940. These voters argue that "the Democrats will have the country in such a mess by 1940 that the people will beg the Republicans to come back."
These data can be found in Gallup Analytics.
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