Vaughn, Justin Scott (2009-05). Presidential responsiveness to public opinion. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • In this dissertation, I examine the determinants of presidential responsiveness to public opinion, employing a theory of context and venue that explains why presidents are more responsive at some times and in certain policy making venues than at other times and in other venues. To test this theory, I create a new direct measure of presidential responsiveness to public opinion, a measure that quantifies the ideological distance between presidential policy positions and public policy preferences. I develop versions of this measure in four important venues of the modern presidency: relations with the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court, the unilateral administrative presidency, and the president's rhetoric. Using time-series regression techniques, I analyze the influence that factors such as political context, electoral context, institutional context, and venue visibility have on the dynamics of presidential responsiveness scores. The results indicate that although the president's policy position taking responds to public opinion dynamics, there is no clear contextual factor that conditions this responsiveness.

publication date

  • December 2007