Why did the late 19th century presidential elections tend to focus on personalities rather than the “real” issues?
Answer Hello, I’m not sure I agree with your premise. Many 19th Century elections focused very heavily on important national issues, including Tariffs, trade, war, slavery, western expansion, immigration, monetary policy, etc. In many ways, I think 19th Century elections were more issue oriented than many 20th Century elections. That said, there are reasons why some elections focus more on personality than issues. One reason is that a candidate’s personality is important. A candidate’s style, competence, etc. has a great impact on their ability to be President. A second reason is that in the 19th Century, the federal government was not involved in nearly as many policy matters as it is today. Most policy was set at the State level, or was left to the private sector. A third reason particular to the late 19th century was that it was dominated by the Republican Party. In periods on one party domination, when there is a general agreement on most major issues by a solid majority, focus on