Explaining the President's Issue Based Liberalism: Pandering, Partisanship, or Pragmatism Academic Article uri icon


  • Past research attempting to explain the president's issue based liberalism has produced a muddled image. The most prominent work has been grounded in centrist theory, positing that presidents tailor their policy stances to mass preferences. Other work has also suggested that presidents cater to mass preferences, but only when their approval ratings are low or during elections. Still others find no relation between presidential issue liberalism and mass preferences, suggesting the importance of partisanship and pragmatism. We develop and validate a new measure of the president's issue based liberalism grounded in presidential rhetoric. We then test the centrist versus partisanship and pragmatism models of presidential liberalism using graphical and Box-Jenkins methods. Our graphical and statistical analyses firmly reject the centrist model and support an image of presidents as partisans whose public issue stances are sometimes moderated by pragmatic concerns. From the standpoint of democratic theory, our results raise questions about the nature of presidential representation in the American system. 2009 Copyright Southern Political Science Association.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Wood, B. D., & Lee, H. S.

citation count

  • 11

complete list of authors

  • Wood, B Dan||Lee, Han Soo

publication date

  • October 2009