Changing their minds? George W. Bush and the limits of presidential persuasion Academic Article uri icon


  • Leading the public is at the core of the modern presidency. Even as they try to govern, presidents are involved in a permanent campaign. Both politics and policy revolve around presidents' attempts to garner public support for themselves and their policies. At the base of this core strategy for governing is the premise that through the permanent campaign the White House can successfully persuade or even mobilise the public. Yet one of the crowning ironies of the contemporary presidency is that at the same time that presidents increasingly attempt to govern by campaigning, public support for presidential policies is elusive. This paper explores George W. Bush's success in moving the public by, first, examining his success in obtaining support for himself through his nationally televised addresses. It then investigates several key issue areas in the Bush presidency to discover whether public opinion moved in the president's direction. The study finds that the public has been largely unresponsive to the White House and concludes by questioning the faith that many have in the broad premise of the potential of presidential leadership of the public. It is appropriate to rethink the theory of governing based on the principle of presidential success in exploiting the bully pulpit to achieve changes in public policy. Presidents not only fail to create new political capital by going public, but their efforts at persuading the public may also decrease their chances of success in bringing about changes in public policy.

published proceedings

  • Twenty-First Century Society

author list (cited authors)

  • Edwards, G. C.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Edwards, George C

publication date

  • January 2007