Which Presidents are Uncommonly Successful in Congress? Chapter uri icon


  • Scholarship on the presidency suggests that what the president does or fails to do is a crucial determinant of success in Congress. If presidential activity exerts a general and systematic influence, then when compared to a common baseline that accounts for political conditions that affect success rates, we should observe some presidents who are uncommonly successful and unsuccessful. We test this expectation with an empirical analysis of presidential success on roll call votes from 1953-2001. We construct a baseline model of presidential success grounded in theory and recent research, and evaluate which presidents appear uncommonly successful or unsuccessful relative to the baseline. We find that presidential success in Congress is largely determined by whether political conditions are favorable or unfavorable. Few residuals from this model could be considered uncommon, and those that are unusual occur only slightly more frequently than random chance. Thus, we find no evidence that any of the ten presidents analyzed here were uncommonly successful or unsuccessful.

author list (cited authors)

  • Fleisher, R., Bond, J. R., & Wood, B. D.

complete list of authors

  • Fleisher, R||Bond, JR||Wood, BD

editor list (cited editors)

  • Rockman, B. A., & Waterman, R. W.

Book Title

  • Presidential Leadership: The Vortex of Power

publication date

  • January 2008