In 1972 it appeared that the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) would be ratified quickly. Support was forthcoming from a vast array of political leaders, such as President Nixon, past presidents, governors and legislators. Both major parties made the amendment part of their platforms and did so again in 1976. An impressive list of private organizations, including the National Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs, the League of Women Voters, the American Association of University Women and many labor organizations, supported the amendment. Opposition was confined to groups of limited political effectiveness, such as the John Birch Society, George Wallace's American Independent Party and the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).
During the years immediately following congressional approval of the ERA in 1972, the American public strongly favored the amendment (see Table 1). In 1974, three Americans favored the ERA for every one who opposed it. Support for the ERA continued at a ratio of about two to one throughout the early ratification years. Support was widespread among all demographic groups. In 1975-76, the Gallup Poll found that even within groups where opposition to the ERA was strongest a majority supported ratification. Specifically, persons with low incomes favored it 53 percent to 31 percent and those living in small towns supported it 54 percent to 29 percent.
Only in 1980—eight years after the ERA was submitted to the states for ratification—did support dip down to its lowest level. This represented a second phase for the ERA—the 1980 presidential campaign-during which the amendment was transformed by candidate Ronald Reagan into a partisan issue and removed from the Republican platform.