Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

Here is a fact that I find intriguing and puzzling. Before FDR, twenty of thirty-one US Presidents held the office for only one term. That's 65%. Yet, from FDR through Obama, only three of thirteen have been one-timers, which is 23%. Even if you split the pre-FDR group into two halves at Lincoln, each half has about the same ratio: Washington to Buchanan (10 of 15) and Lincoln to Hoover (10 of 16). Of course FDR served four terms, but I'm only counting him once, because his terms were consecutive. Cleveland, however, gets counted twice, because his terms were not consecutive.

Why did the ratio change starting at FDR? Of course there are numerous factors to consider. One thing is that before FDR the inauguration date was March 4. Then the 20th Amendment moved it to January 20. Is it possible that the shortening of the "lame duck" period between election and inauguration contributed to the ratio change? Why might that substantially decrease the number of single-term Presidents?

Could the statistical change just be random chance?

Do the wars have something to do with it? The Civil War did not alter the ratio. Was there something relevant about WW2? Maybe the steady stream of foreign wars since then is a factor.

And what about FDR's New Deal programs? Does government intervention in the economy lead to less turnover in the presidency?

If we hadn't limited people to two terms after FDR, would Dubya or Obama still be our President?

Edited by MisterSwig

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Starting with Massachusetts in 1852 as the first state, ending with Mississippi in 1927, when all of the states had passed some form of compulsory education if you're looking for a potential nominee..

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

Starting with Massachusetts in 1852 as the first state, ending with Mississippi in 1927, when all of the states had passed some form of compulsory education if you're looking for a potential nominee..

Thanks. I suppose that would count toward government intervention in the economy. There was a higher concentration of two-termers between McKinley and Hoover (4 of 7), right before FDR. But there was a similar concentration between Washington and Jackson (5 of 7). So I'm not sure if anything can be made of these smaller groupings.

For those playing along, I also calculated the average term (in years) per president in each of my three historical periods. Not everyone made it the full four or eight years, of course. So, from Washington to Buchanan, it was 4.8 years per presidency. From Lincoln to Hoover, it was 4.5 years. And from FDR to Obama, it was 6.4 years, keeping in mind that that last number is actually lower than it might have been due to the term limits imposed after FDR.

Edited by MisterSwig

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How did you adjust the data for all the varying situations?  Example: you can't (shouldn't) count William Henry Harrison as a one term president, since he died in office and thus didn't have an opportunity to be a two term president.  Did you count Teddy Roosevelt as a two termer?  He was only elected once.  Truman and LBJ too. 

Improved longevity is probably all you can take away from this.  And maybe fewer assassinations.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

Thanks. I suppose that would count toward government intervention in the economy.

Indeed it does. It also put into place and reinforces the notion the state has a role in ensuring that its citizens be educated, paving the way for the establishment of a bureaucracy over the content to be taught.

Edited by dream_weaver

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, Ninth Doctor said:

How did you adjust the data for all the varying situations?  Example: you can't (shouldn't) count William Henry Harrison as a one term president, since he died in office and thus didn't have an opportunity to be a two term president.  Did you count Teddy Roosevelt as a two termer?  He was only elected once.  Truman and LBJ too. 

For cases in which a president did not complete four years, I still counted the partial term as a term, one term for the president who died or resigned, and one term for his successor. I believe there are six of these cases before FDR, and three after (including FDR). So, for example, I counted Harrison's one month in office as a term, and Teddy Roosevelt, who replaced McKinley and won re-election, had two terms.

We might tweak this methodology and get slightly different ratios, but I don't see how doing so will change the basic fact presented. To be fair, I think we'd have to consider the successor as completing the deceased or resigned president's term. So that would still make Harrison a one-termer. Then the successor would become either a zero or one-termer. In the Harrison case, Tyler would become a zero, since he only completed Harrison's term.

Also, at this initial stage I have not been concerned with why a president did not get a second term. But I will probably look at that detail later.

Edited by MisterSwig

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Could you post or link the data you used? I was thinking about more nuanced things like frequency of being reelected when the House is by majority the opposite party.

I suspect inclination towards perpetual war starting with LBJ and increasing power of the executive branch starting with Wilson. It could also be greater population and urbanization.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is the list I used to do my initial calculations.

https://history.house.gov/Institution/Presidents-Coinciding/Presidents-Coinciding/

And this is the Wikipedia entry for the 20th Amendment.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twentieth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution

The 22nd Amendment is also relevant. It Constitutionally limited the terms to two. The eight-year limit had been only traditional before that. But there is still a case where a president can serve for ten years, if he serves for less than two years of someone else's unexpired term, as in death or resignation. This is the part that makes assigning that term to the deceased/resigned or successor a bit tricky.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twenty-second_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution

Edited by MisterSwig

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I tweaked the methodology to see what would happen. Let's call my initial method the "partial term" method, where a partial term counts as a term for each president. This new method I'll call "combined term." It's based on the idea that sometimes two presidents combined complete a term, and also on the traditional/legal limit of two terms established by Washington/22nd Amendment. For example, W. Harrison and Tyler are combined for a single one-termer; and Lincoln and Johnson are combined for a single two-termer. Some successors to deceased/resigned presidents later won re-election, and these cases presented unique issues. I counted McKinley's second term for T. Roosevelt, since Roosevelt served the vast majority of it and tradition might have influenced his decision later not to run for a third term. With Harding and Coolidge I counted them both as one-termers, since Harding served the majority of his term. But this case is a tough call, because Coolidge apparently quit due to tradition. I gave FDR's final term to Truman (making him a two-termer), since he served almost all of it and won re-election. But it should be noted that Truman ultimately did not retire out of tradition, but because of other factors like his health and unpopularity. Kennedy and Johnson are both one-termers, but I combined Nixon's second term with Ford's presidency, since the 22nd Amendment legally barred Ford from a third term.

With this method, the pre-FDR number is 18 of 27. So 67% are one-termers. Post-FDR it's now 5 of 13 or 39%.  Still quite a difference.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I meant the actual data set you compiled. If not I'm thinking of making one in Excel.

Yeah, that is a big difference, but the sample size is twice as big pre-FDR. I need to do a Chi squared test on it (or something like it) to see if the difference is even significant. Part of the problem is, why did you select FDR as the dividing point? I would use the Reagan era. I might even use Wilson. Like anything in stats, you need to justify your divisions.

4 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

I gave FDR's final term to Truman (making him a two-termer), since he served almost all of it and won re-election

I don't see why you should. Or at least, what's the difference between a Pres. who served most of the rest of the term, and a president who served less than half of the rest of the term? Another way to look at it to answer the question: what hypothesis do you want to investigate? You could ask something about the causes of why people vote for a person twice (in which case you should only look at who was elected twice in a row), or you could ask how likely it is for someone to be elected into another term based on how long they serve. If you do it the second way, you would look at how many months somebody served.  

Edited by Eiuol

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Part of the problem is, why did you select FDR as the dividing point?

He's the only one who broke with tradition (serving more than two terms), and I happened to notice that the frequency of two-termers increased after him. Initially I was only investigating the change in inauguration dates, which happened during FDR.

2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I would use the Reagan era. I might even use Wilson. Like anything in stats, you need to justify your divisions.

Let me know your results. I've been splitting the pre-FDR group into halves, to check if there's a significant imbalance in the stats before and after Lincoln. I don't see one. But an imbalance occurs if you split the pre-Lincoln group into pre and post-Jackson halves. My hypothesis for that is the Founders were generally more popular (and maybe younger) than the presidents leading up to the Civil War.

2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Or at least, what's the difference between a Pres. who served most of the rest of the term, and a president who served less than half of the rest of the term?

Before the 22nd Amendment, the tradition of a two-term limit was in play (though it didn't stop FDR). So it's hard to call T. Roosevelt or Truman one-termers, when they had tradition against them and served over seven years. (Note: The 22nd Amendment specifically didn't apply to Truman, so he could have gone for three terms, but decided against it, and FDR had broken tradition before him. So it's a complex problem. Given the nature of our investigation, perhaps FDR should be considered as two two-termers, and Truman as a one-termer. But I think that's too unfair to Truman.)

2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Another way to look at it to answer the question: what hypothesis do you want to investigate?

I don't have an overall hypothesis yet. I'm still collecting potentially relevant facts and asking questions.

2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I meant the actual data set you compiled. If not I'm thinking of making one in Excel.

I just have it written in a notebook. Give me a day, and I'll transfer it to an Excel spreadsheet.

Edited by MisterSwig

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

He's the only one who broke with tradition (serving more than two terms), and I happened to notice that the frequency of two-termers increased after him.

I mean, if you don't have a hypothesis to start with, it's just an arbitrary division. You can find statistical anomalies by doing this that aren't meaningful. "It looks like there are more" isn't a good hypothesis. "FDR broke the tradition of term limits" is a little better, but that still isn't enough to say why other people would vote for him those extra times. Does anyone really care if he broke tradition? You need something special about him that you hypothesize might result in the pattern changing. 

1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

Given the nature of our investigation, perhaps FDR should be considered as two two-termers, and Truman as a one-termer.

I'm not sure that this distinction matters. Just use months served.

It might sound nitpicky, but I think when you put it all together, your results will be much more clear.

Edited by Eiuol

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

US Presidents List.xlsx

There's the spreadsheet. I added a column for months in office. And I split FDR's presidency into two rows to make the chart below easier to read.

476123622_Screenshot_20191108-2326092.thumb.png.fb6e9ba015bf04a8b52848377076f30c.png

The bars represent months in office per president (going chronologically from left to right). Note that FDR has two bars (94.5 and 51 months) which could be combined as one huge one.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...