Log In/Create Account

White Attitudes Toward Black Civil Equality in the Nineteenth Century: Iowa's Equal Rights Referenda of 1857, 1868, and 1880 (ICPSR 4284)

Principal Investigator(s):


The primary objective of this data collection was to provide a quantitative underpinning for the analysis of Northern racial attitudes in the United States during the Civil War era. The data contain the results of the three popular referenda on Black civil equality held in 1857, 1868, and 1880 in the state of Iowa: the first just prior to the onset of the Civil War, the second following the Civil War, and the third coming at the close of the Reconstruction period. In order to provide a more comprehensive political context for these well-spaced referenda, the data files contain all relevant annual elections occurring in Iowa between August 1848 and June 1882, capturing the period of time beginning with the first elections involving antislavery candidates through the end of Reconstruction. In addition, the data contain the results of various other referenda, including banking and liquor prohibition referenda voted upon during the time period. Parts 1 and 2 contain county-level data for all 99 Iowa counties. Part 1, County File: Elections and Referenda, contains the outcomes for the various elections and referenda that were put to the vote in Iowa during the mid- to late-1800s. Part 2, County File: Miscellaneous, contains various characteristics describing the voting Iowan population including religion and occupation data. Parts 3 and 4 contain township-level data. The data contain results from 186 of 292 Iowa townships that had surviving 1857 referenda returns. Of the 186, 127 townships had records for all three of the referenda regarding the rights of Blacks (1857, 1868, and 1880). As a result, Part 3, Township File: Referenda, contains the outcomes, by township, for the three civil rights referenda voted on in the state of Iowa. Part 4, Township File: Voters, contains hand counted voter birthplace data keyed to each of the three referenda.

Access Notes

  • These data are available only to users at ICPSR member institutions. Because you are not logged in, we cannot verify that you will be able to download these data.

  • ICPSR Logo

    This study is provided by ICPSR. ICPSR provides leadership and training in data access, curation, and methods of analysis for a diverse and expanding social science research community.


DS0:  Study-Level Files
DS1:  County File: Elections and Referenda - Download All Files (0.7 MB)
DS2:  County File: Miscellaneous - Download All Files (0.3 MB)
DS3:  Township File: Referenda - Download All Files (0.4 MB)
DS4:  Township File: Voters - Download All Files (0.6 MB)

Study Description


Dykstra, Robert R. WHITE ATTITUDES TOWARD BLACK CIVIL EQUALITY IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY: IOWA'S EQUAL RIGHTS REFERENDA OF 1857, 1868, and 1880. ICPSR04284-v1. Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa, Department of History [producer], 2005. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2005-12-19. http://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR04284.v1

Persistent URL:

Export Citation:

  • RIS (generic format for RefWorks, EndNote, etc.)
  • EndNote XML (EndNote X4.0.1 or higher)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:   African Americans, American Civil War, Black White relations, civil rights, counties, historical data, legislation, local elections, nineteenth century, racial attitudes, Reconstruction, referendum, state elections, voter attitudes, voter preferences, voter turnout, voting rights

Smallest Geographic Unit:   township

Geographic Coverage:   Iowa, United States

Time Period:  

  • 1848-08--1882-06

Date of Collection:  

  • 1970--1979

Unit of Observation:   All politically organized counties (eventually 99 in number) 186 townships for the 1857 referendum, and 127 townships longitudinally linked to all three referenda.

Universe:   Iowa, and by inference the rest of the Middle West, as well as the Northeast. (There were few native Iowans in the voting population in this frontier period. Virtually everybody had in-migrated from other states or from Europe.)

Data Types:   event/transaction data

Data Collection Notes:

(1) Parts 3 and 4 contain township-level data. There were a total of 292 counties in Iowa, however data concerning the 1857 referenda on Black suffrage was only available for 186 counties. These counties are sometimes referred to within the study as the "186 subfile." Furthermore, of these 186 counties found in Parts 3 and 4, 127 of them contained data for all three of the Black suffrage referenda that were voted upon in 1857, 1868, and 1880. These counties are referred to as the "127 subfile." Furthermore, of these 186 counties found in Parts 3 and 4, 127 of them contained data for all three of the Black suffrage referenda that were voted upon in 1857, 1868, and 1880. These counties are referred to as the "127 subfile." (2) Per the author, since the estimated "Nonvoters" variables are arithmetic calculations, they occasionally are represented as minus numbers. This simply means that the number of actual voters exceeded the number of estimated eligible voters. These negative numbers are usually small and do not pose a systematic error in the data. (3) The author also points out that it will be seen that some entries take the form of large even numbers (e.g., 200, 300, 700). These are obviously estimates made by county-seat election officials for losing candidates in lopsided elections. At the time, there were no partisan poll-watchers demanding an exact count. Such entries are not serious errors, since they are not systematic. In any event, they are, given present knowledge, the only extant data, and can only be utilized or excluded as the user sees fit. (4) The author notes that the data does not include the sometimes useful "Ineligibles" variable, employed in comparisons of any two sets of election data, that designates new voters coming into the electorate since the first of the compared elections. It is calculated by subtracting the first election's Estimated Eligible Voters (EEV) from that of the second. (5) For the purposes of this study, voters are defined as adult, male citizens of the United States. (6) Voter birthplace data were used by the author as an indicator of individual ethnocultural orientation.


Data Source:

Election Records, 1838-1890 (microfilm 4753), Iowa Secretary of State, University of Iowa Library

John A.T. Hull, ed., CENSUS OF IOWA FOR 1880, 1883.

John A.T. Hull, CENSUS FOR 1880.

John A.T. Hull, THE SEVENTH CENSUS OF THE UNITED STATES: 1850, Washington, DC: 1853.


Frank D. Jackson, ed., CENSUS OF IOWA FOR THE YEAR 1885, Des Moines: 1885.



Iowa Census of 1856 manuscript

United States Census of 1870 manuscript

United States Census of 1880 manuscript


county records

local histories

Response Rates:   While not exactly a response rate, the author notes that the data include birthplace records for 109,510 individual voters (i.e., of White male United States citizens aged 21 and over for 1856 and 1870, and father's birthplace of immigrant male citizens in 1880). The "186 subfile" represents 31 percent of all Iowa voters in 1857, while the "127 subfile" accounts for 21 percent in 1856, 13 percent in 1870, and 10 percent in 1880.


Original ICPSR Release:  



Metadata Exports

If you're looking for collection-level metadata rather than an individual metadata record, please visit our Metadata Records page.

Download Statistics