Did air-conditioning get Ronald Reagan elected?
Here at .id we spend a lot of time talking and thinking about how places shape population and populations shape place. But there are often many other factors. Last week on ABC they aired an American program ‘How we got to Now’. The show looks at how various technological advances and their inventors have shaped current society. This particular episode looked at Willis Carrier, the inventor of air conditioning. He was a young man from Buffalo, New York who was tasked with creating a way to stop ink smudging in printing rooms during the heat of summer. What Carrier created is recognized as the first modern air conditioner.
So how did this invention get Ronald Reagan elected? In the early 20th century, the majority of US residents lived in the northern cities, including New York and Chicago. However, the south and the west of the country were not particularly prosperous and had small populations. In 1910, there were only 937 people living in Las Vegas. It was just too hot to live in these areas.
In 1951, the small, household airconditioner was introduced. This dramatically affected the distribution of growth of the American population. Within 10 years, the population of Tucson grew 400%, Phoenix grew by 300% and other cities in the south and west either doubled or grew at really high rates. Interestingly, the people moving to these areas were older, more established households. The majority of these were Republican voters. The growth and large proportions of populations in the southern states led to an increase of 40 Electoral College votes. These Republican, Electoral College votes got Ronald Reagan elected.