"I favor the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and it must be enforced at the point of a bayonet, if necessary."
--Ronald Reagan, Los Angeles Times, October 20, 1965
Better than two-thirds of Senate Democrats supported the measure on final passage (46 yeas, 21 nays), but an even stronger 82 percent of Republicans supported it (27 yeas, 6 nays). The primary reason that Republican support was higher than Democratic support -- even though the legislation was pushed hard by a Democratic president, Lyndon B. Johnson -- is that the opposition to the bill primarily came from Southern lawmakers.
In the mid 1960s, the South was overwhelmingly Democratic -- a legacy of the Civil War and Reconstruction, when the Republican Party was the leading force against slavery and its legacy. Because of this history, the Democratic Party in the 1960s was divided between Southern Democrats, most of whom opposed civil rights legislation, and Democrats from outside the South who more often than not supported it.