Brandon Rottinghaus. 2010. The Provisional Pulpit: Modern Presidential Leadership of Public Opinion. (Joseph V. Hughes Jr. and Holly O. Hughes Series in the Presidency and Leadership). College Station: Texas A&M University Press.
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Reviewed in the Journal of Politics, Congress & the Presidency, Presidential Studies Quarterly. Media mentions in the Monkey Cage (http://themonkeycage.org/blog/2013/03/08/the-presidential-charm-offensive/).
Alec Ewald and Brandon Rottinghaus, co-editors. 2009. Democracy and Punishment: International Perspectives on Criminal Disenfranchisement. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Jeremy Bailey and Brandon Rottinghaus. 2013. “The Development of Unilateral Power and the Problem of the Power to Warn: Washington through McKinley.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 43 (1): 186-204.
Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha and Brandon Rottinghaus. 2013. “The Puzzle of Executive Representation,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 43 (1): 1-15.
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A significant debate rages in the literature. On the one hand, Canes-Wrone (2006) maintains that the success of going public is a function of existing mass public support for a policy. On the other hand, Wood (2009) demonstrates that presidents respond to partisan liberalism, not the mass public in their public rhetoric. This presents a puzzle in the literature: how do president reconcile the need to target policies that are popular with the mass public to go public successfully, when they respond primarily to partisan public opinion in their speeches? We contend that additional examination of presidents’ specific policy priorities is warranted to investigate the extent to which either or both of these perspectives is correct. We examine the president’s policy proposals from 1989 through 2008 and compare them with both centrist and partisan public opinion. Our findings indicate that presidents are more partisan than centrist in their policy priorities, providing robustness to past results and adding clarification to this debate.
Brandon Rottinghaus and Kent Tedin. 2012. “Presidential “Going Bipartisan,” Opposition Reaction and the Consequences for Institutional Approval.” The American Behavioral Scientist 56 (12): 1696-1717. Invited submission for special issue on political polarization.
Although scholars have described how legislative efforts to spur bipartisanship fare, we have little knowledge about how bipartisanship can affect political opinions with their rhetoric or the most impactful message for opponents to respond. Using President Obama’s bipartisan speech to the GOP House Issues Conference in 2010, we look at the effect of the one-sided message on President Obama’s favorability rating. We then pair this message with three competing messages of varying partisanship to determine the degree of change (if any). The results show that the President’s one-sided message is effective, but if met with a competitive bipartisan message from the opposition party, approval of the President by all partisan groups increases even more. However, if the President’s bipartisan message frame is met using a partisan message from the opposition party, the President’s approval declines among all partisans, and approval of the Republicans in Congress increases but only for Republican identifiers.
Brandon Rottinghaus. 2012. “What Predicts Trends in the White House Mail? The Macro Causes of Mass Political Letter Writing to the Chief Executive.” American Politics Research 40(2): 205-231.
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Winner of the Patrick J. Fett Award for the Best Paper on the Scientific Study of Congress and the Presidency presented at the Midwest Political Science Association (2010).
Scott Basinger and Brandon Rottinghaus. 2012. “Skeletons in the White House Closets: An Empirical Investigation into Modern Presidential Scandals.” Political Science Quarterly 127 (2): 213-239.
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Political scandals are commonly portrayed as high-stakes affairs that dominate the media’s and public’s interest. The usual presumption is that political figures who are accused of wrongdoing will stonewall the media in such events, leaving the public in the dark. In this article we introduce a comprehensive database of 87 scandals involving the president (as a central or a peripheral player) between 1972 and 2008. We classify scandals according to type, targets, and the White House’s strategy in dealing with accusations of wrongdoing. We measure the length of time the scandal lasted and the extent of news media coverage. We find that most scandals are resolved quickly and with little newspaper coverage. The White House stonewalls more frequently when the president is centrally involved and when political corruption is alleged, and the duration and coverage of these scandals tends to be much greater. The conventional wisdom on presidential scandals as drawn-out and high profile affairs is based on an unrepresentative sample of cases.
Lang, Matthew (UH graduate student), Brandon Rottinghaus and Gerhard Peters. 2011. “Revisiting Midterm Visits: Why the Type of Visit Matters.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 41 (4): 809-818.
In this article, we reassess the findings of where presidents visit during midterm elections from 1954 to 2010 with data that, for the first time, segments presidential visits into “rallies,” fundraisers and “virtual” campaigning. On one hand, our findings reflect what others have found ― when aggregating all visits together, the total Electoral College votes and the previous state-level winning percentage of the president in the state affect the probability of a visit by the president. However, presidents are more likely to visit states for a “rally” when they are more popular and the number of competitive races in the state is greater. Presidents are more likely to host a fundraiser in a state when the number of Electoral College votes is higher but are less likely to visit when there are fewer competitive races. The results suggest that there is value in knowing the purpose for which a president visited a state in a midterm election.
Scott Basinger and Brandon Rottinghaus. 2012. “Stonewalling: Explaining Presidential Behavior During Scandal.” Political Research Quarterly 65(2): 290-302.
We possess little theoretical understanding of how presidents and their staffs behave during scandals. Existing scholarship on the presidency has focused on “offensive” communication strategies, aimed at achieving legislative or policy goals. In this article, our interest is in “defensive” communication strategies, aimed at coping with scandals. We provide a game-theoretic, signaling model of the relationship between the president and the media. We utilize the model to predict under what conditions the White House will stonewall, and how the media will react. One implication of the model is that the president’s dominant strategy is not always to hide the truth, and the dominant strategy is not always to “tell it all” ― optimal presidential behavior changes depending on circumstances. We illustrate this with a case study of the Iran-Contra scandals and an empirical analysis of scandals from the Nixon through the Bush administrations. The conclusions have implications for political accountability and the president as public actor.
Kent Tedin, Brandon Rottinghaus and Harrell Rodgers. 2011. “When the President Goes Public: The Consequences of Communication Mode for Opinion Change Across Issue Types and Groups.” Political Research Quarterly 64 (3): 506-519.
Paper mentioned on the Monkey Cage blog in reference to President Obama’s jobs speech in September of 2011. http://themonkeycage.org/blog/2011/09/09/this-week-in-political-science/
Evidence is mounting that presidents find difficulty in leading public opinion. However, focusing on presidential ability to lead mass opinion may underestimate the degree to which presidents are able to rally key groups on political and personal characteristics. In this paper, we use an experimental design to test the effect of communication mode across issue types and groups. Using three of President Bush’s speeches on Iraq (the State of the Union, an Oval Office Address and a press conference), the data show that by going public the president can influence political opinions across certain issue types and groups. Among our findings are that the groups most affected by the President’s speeches are not always his core constituency, but often his putative opponents. However, this opinion change by the non-core groups is often limited to direct presidential addresses and evaluations of the president’s personal qualities. The implication is that writing off presidential leadership as totally ineffective may be as yet premature.
Brandon Rottinghaus and Daniel E. Bergan. 2011. “The Politics of Requesting Appointments: Congressional Requests in the Appointment and Nomination Process.” Political Research Quarterly 64 (1): 31-44.
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There is persistent debate about who most influences the federal appointment process, especially whether the executive branch staffs the federal bureaucracy with individuals loyal to the White House or relies on the process as an accommodation to important political players, especially Members of Congress. Yet, we still know little about the role Members of Congress play in the process of shaping the pre-nomination environment. In this article, we address this debate by using unique archival data from the Dwight Eisenhower and Gerald Ford Presidential Libraries to identify which legislators contacted the president about a specific nomination or appointment request and under what conditions these requests were successful. We find that legislator resources, Senate membership and those closer ideologically to the president are related both to the number of requests made and the number of successful appointment or nomination requests granted. The results suggest that the president relies on Members of Congress for credible information about staffing administrative positions but they appoint or nominate individuals that are in their own interest, not necessarily to accommodate Congress.
Brandon Rottinghaus and Chris Nicholson (UH graduate student). 2010. “Counting Congress In: Patterns of Success in Judicial Nomination Requests by Members of Congress to the President.” American Politics Research 38 (4): 691-717.
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The power to nominate and confirm federal judges is shared by Congress and the President, yet few works explicitly address the role Congress plays in shaping the pre-selection pool for judicial nominees. In this article, we illuminate this debate by exploring judicial nomination requests from Members of Congress to the Eisenhower and Ford Administrations. In explaining who is nominated, the characteristics of the nominee matter more than the characteristics of the nominator, with the party affiliation of a nominee being the strongest predictive factor. Institutional characteristics are more prevalent at the confirmation stage, where the Senate relied more heavily on its members and the judicial experience of nominees than did presidents in nominating them. Given our results, partisanship appears to have mattered in earlier than presumed in judicial nominations, with even ostensibly non-partisan presidents such as Eisenhower understanding the importance of appointing like-minded individuals to lifetime positions on the bench.
Michelle Belco (UH Graduate Student) and Brandon Rottinghaus. 2009. “Proclamation 6920: Using Executive Power to Set a New Direction for the Management of National Monuments.” (“The Law” Features) Presidential Studies Quarterly 39 (3): 605-618.
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Scholars in recent years have been interested in the use of presidential proclamations but the scope and implications of their use have yet to be fully examined. Specifically, the Antiquities Act of 1906 granted the president broad discretionary authority to proclaim national monuments. Presidents have used this power, often despite the consternation of Congress, to implement changes in public policy. In this context, when President Clinton issued Proclamation 6920 to establish the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, his use of executive power initiated a significant Congressional reaction even though his delegation of the managing agency, which will have a lasting effect on public lands policy, received little attention. In this article, we argue first, despite Congressional efforts to limit the president’s discretion to proclaim national monuments under the Antiquities Act, executive power was not curtailed, and second, that by delegating management authority to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) President Clinton laid the groundwork for a new direction for both national monuments and BLM.
Travis Ridout, Brandon Rottinghaus and Nathan Hosey (UH Graduate Student). 2009. “Following the Rules?: Candidate Strategy in Presidential Primaries.” Social Science Quarterly 90 (4): 777-795.
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The competitiveness of the 2008 presidential primaries on both the Republican and Democratic parties has prompted a reconsideration of the role of delegate selection rules in influencing the strategic behavior of presidential candidates. Using advertising and candidate state visit data from the 2004 and 2008 presidential nominating campaigns, we reexamine the strategies presidential candidates use when competing for the nomination of their party. We find that, to a large extent, the rules of the game help predict where candidates allocate their political advertising and campaign stops; candidates consider whether a contest is a primary or caucus, they pay attention to how many delegates are at stake, and they consider whether a state’s delegate allocation method is largely proportional or winner-take-all. Yet we also find some differences in how the rules influence frontrunners and long-shots candidates, and we discover how other factors, including a candidate’s access to financial resources, influence the allocation of ads and visits.
Brandon Rottinghaus. 2009. “Strategic Leaders: Identifying Successful Momentary Presidential Leadership of Public Opinion.” Political Communication 26 (3): 296-316.
Work mentioned in USA Today, the National Journal and US News and World Report.
Most scholars find presidents generally fail at moving the public’s views on policy, however, although presidents may fail at opinion leadership at the aggregate level, examining specific communications tactics may yield a more nuanced view of when presidents succeed or fail at leadership. In this article, using a comprehensive data set spanning 1953 to 2001, several strategic communications tactics through which the president might be influencing temporary opinion movement are examined. We find that presidential use of nationally televised addresses is the most consistently effective strategy to enhance presidential leadership, but the effect is lessened for later serving presidents. Strategies involving domestic travel never positively affect leadership, while televised interactions with the media always negatively affect leadership success. The cumulative results imply that presidents can momentarily lead public opinion with particular tactics, and that the conditions enhancing leadership are partially in their control, suggesting presidential capability to strategically lead public opinion.
Brandon Rottinghaus and Elvin Lim. 2009. “Proclaiming Trade Policy: Presidential Unilateral Enactment of Trade Policy.” American Politics Research 37 (6): 1003-1023.
This article examines presidential proclamations on trade policy, a category of presidential unilateral power that we call “delegated unilateral power” that is used frequently in creating or modifying trade policy, from 1974-2006, and tests the boundaries of the explanations predicted by the unilateral powers literature. We also find that the use of proclamations on trade policy is independent of the partisan balance in Congress. The use of proclamations modifying policies was the only tactic that comported with predicted actions from the unilateral presidency. Therefore, contrary to the expectations of the unilateral presidency, presidents are not unrestrained political agents on trade policy, and although presidents have the capacity to do so, they rarely use political factors as a pretext to enact unilateral policy on trade. Ultimately, unilateral powers are not all created equal, as some allow for considerable presidential authority and some are more limited.
Brandon Rottinghaus. 2008. “Mentioning the Mail: Presidential References to Public Opinion Mail and the Construction of Political Reality.” White House Studies 8 (3): 391-408.
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Presidents have the ability to construct much of the political reality that governs their policy-making environment and this power could allow the president to manipulate public opinion and unilaterally alter political reality. However, scholarly works exploring this phenomenon often focus on representation of national identity or references to the office itself rather than the ability of the president to shape reality to lead public opinion. We construct a comprehensive database of presidential references to public opinion mail over the course of the modern presidency (from Herbert Hoover to Bill Clinton). From these unique data, it is clear that modern presidential references to public opinion mail are used instrumentally to illustrate the political points presidents make, especially related to agenda setting, and to aid them in personalizing political issues and humanizing the policy implications rather than attempting to demonstrate the agreement between their position and the mass public.
Brandon Rottinghaus. 2008. “Presidential Leadership on Foreign Policy and the Limits of “‘Crafted Talk.’” Political Communication 25 (2): 138-157.
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The strategy of “crafted talk” (or framing) suggests that a politician uses public opinion to anticipate the most alluring language to convince the public to follow a politician’s own preferred policy (Jacobs and Shapiro 2000). This manipulatory behavior by presidents has important consequences in the realm of constructing foreign policy, especially if the policy involves military service personnel, international prestige or foreign conflict. However, no scholar has investigated White House archival data to examine the theoretical nuances of presidential “crafting” talk when constructing arguments for foreign policy. In this article, we examine three case studies using internal polling memoranda and focus group results concerning the Vietnam War under President Johnson, the signing of the INF Treaty with the Soviet Union under President Reagan and the Gulf War under President Bush. In each of the three cases, we find that public opinion places serious constraints on presidential framing of foreign policy. Implications for the effectiveness of political framing and the limits of presidential persuasion are discussed.
Brandon Rottinghaus. 2008. “Opening the President’s Mailbag: The Nixon Administration’s Public Relations Use of Public Opinion Mail.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 38 (2): 61-77.
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In this article we extend the empirical discussion of the instrumental value of public opinion by exploring the uses of public opinion mail to advance the political goals of the Nixon White House, in particular in rhetorically constructing public opinion. We draw on internal archival material from the Nixon White House demonstrating the Nixon Administration’s desire to use the public opinion mail for rhetorical purposes and combine this archival analysis with a collected data set of public presidential statements referencing public opinion mail. We find that President Nixon referred to public opinion mail to demonstrate the harmony of his position with the public interest, especially on salient issues, including the Vietnam War and the wage and price freeze, and to “humanize” his policy positions.
Travis Ridout and Brandon Rottinghaus. 2008. “The Importance of Being Early: Presidential Primary Front-Loading and the Impact of the Proposed Western Regional Primary.” PS: Political Science 41 (1): 123-128.
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In attempting to draw the attention of the candidates during a presidential nomination race, states have employed two main strategies: front-loading their primary dates toward the beginning of the primary calendar and joining with other states in regional primary events. But how successful are these approaches to attracting the attention of the candidates? Using data on statewide candidate visits and advertising patterns in 2000 and 2004, we estimate the impact of each of these strategies and then extrapolate to the new Western regional primary, predicting how successful this event will be in attracting both candidate advertising and visits in 2008. We find that the primary’s early date is likely to entice candidates to the states in the region, but the fact that these states are concentrated in one region is unlikely to result in any increase in candidate attention beyond what the individual states would receive based on their individual characteristics.
Brandon Rottinghaus. 2007. “Following the “Mail Hawks”: Alternative Measures of Public Opinion on Vietnam in the Johnson White House.” Public Opinion Quarterly 71 (3): 367-391.
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Scholars argue that public opinion grew in importance during the Vietnam conflict, yet most find President Johnson was not responsive to public opinion during the War. We amplify these theories by demonstrating the practical value of public opinion mail sent to the White House on Vietnam, reshaping theories about the constraining role of public opinion in foreign policy. We find that the White House mail, but not opinion polling, favoring escalation of the War had a significant and positive impact on President Johnson’s policy rhetoric. From these and similar findings, we conclude that the Johnson Administration followed core “hawkish” political allies (those individuals desiring a rapid escalation and quick end to the war) rather than those approving of a withdrawal, suggesting mail-gauged opinion from electoral partners (and core political allies more broadly) has value in foreign policy making.
Brandon Rottinghaus and Jason Maier. 2007. “The Power of Decree: Recent Presidential Use of Executive Proclamations.” Political Research Quarterly 60 (2): 338-343.
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Recent scholarship on unilateral presidential actions has recast our understanding of modern presidential policy making. However, our knowledge on this issue remains incomplete. We expand the literature on the unilateral presidency by exploring presidential proclamations from 1977 to 2005 and identifying the importance of these tools as a policy making instrument in expanding presidential power. A majority of presidential proclamations involve presidential authority under delegated powers of international trade and presidents use this power in coordination with (but largely independent of) Congress. Presidents also use proclamations on the issue of national parks and federal lands exclusively to initiate new federal arrangements establishing new national parks or protections for federal lands, often against the will of Congress.
Brandon Rottinghaus. 2006. “Rethinking Presidential Responsiveness: The Public Presidency and Rhetorical Congruency, 1953-2001.” Journal of Politics 68 (3): 720-732.
Several studies have examined the relationship between presidential action and public opinion, however, few explore a direct and continuous connection between presidential rhetoric and public opinion. To measure presidential rhetorical congruence with opinion, I construct a data set of matched opinion and policy statements from President Eisenhower to Clinton. Confirming expectations (while contradicting others), no differences in congruent position taking between presidents who served earlier (Eisenhower to Ford) than those who served later (Carter to Clinton). Importantly, the election effect discovered in the president’s first term is repeated in their second term, in advance of midterm or presidential elections. Methods of public communication present mixed results; statements made on television are less likely to be congruent with public opinion in the first term (but more likely in the second term) while statements made in public speeches are positive for second term presidents, both points suggesting presidents do not “go quietly” into retirement.
Brandon Rottinghaus. 2006. “Dear Mr. President: The Institutionalization of Public Opinion Mail in the White House.” Political Science Quarterly 121 (3): 1-26.
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Scholars have explored the internal development of public opinion polling in the White House but have largely overlooked alternative means by which presidents gauge opinion. This article introduces an important but untold story of the origins, adaptations and utility of public opinion mail sent to the White House as a political tool. The developmental process of the systemization of opinion mail in the White House predates, but largely mirrors, the institutionalization of opinion polling in the West Wing and serves as a valuable measure of opinion for presidents interested in understanding and managing public opinion. The process begins in the Roosevelt White House where periodic mail summaries, or “mail briefs,” were used to evaluate specific political events, and the Democratic Party utilized summaries to keep tabs on the opinions of the party faithful. The significant point of departure is the Eisenhower Administration who was the first White House to keep a contiguous internal weekly summary total of the volume and direction of public opinion mail independent of the Republican Party. Presidents Johnson and Nixon subsequently politicized the process by using opinion mail to identify key election constituencies, define pressure mail, track and analyze salient, contentious political issues and for public relations purposes. Conclusions for the study of the public presidency are discussed.
Brandon Rottinghaus and Daniel E. Bergan. 2006. “New Data and New Directions on Interbranch Lobbying: Congressional Mail Summaries of the George H.W. Bush White House.” Congress and the Presidency 33 (1): 75-94.
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This article analyzes a unique new set of data (compiled originally by the Bush White House) using mail written to President Bush from members of Congress during the 101st and 102nd Congresses to explore interbranch lobbying. We argue that this data illuminates the relationship between the president and Congress in a new and informative way. We use this data to inform our view of the shared power arrangements (identified as “tandem institutions”) by developing a series of expectations to explore the joint roles of this interaction. Conforming to expectations, we find that requests for presidential action (especially on foreign policy) and the conveyance of congressional opinion (especially on domestic policy) are the top two categories that characterize this relationship. We also find committee chairs or party leaders, who serve as conduits for opinion of their representatives to the president, are also more likely to write the president than rank and file members. Further, those members who are ideologically furthest away from the president tend to write to convey information and urge specific action more frequently than those closer to the president.
Brandon Rottinghaus and Zlata Bereznikova. 2006. “Exorcising Scandal in the White House: Presidential Polling During Times of Crisis.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 36 (3): 493-505.
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Several important works have addressed the issue of scandal in the White House, however, no study has used internal White House archival polling data to explore the phenomenon of presidential recovery from scandal. In this research note, we expand the analysis of presidential polling and connect these internal procedures to times of scandal in the White House across two presidents and three scandals. We identify four questions the White House is concerned with (through the polling) and we suggest polling is uniquely helpful in identifying answers to these questions that gauge the depth of presidential involvement, the ability of the president to continue to govern, the importance of the scandal to the public and the fairness of the media.
Brandon Rottinghaus. 2003. “Limited to Follow: The Early Public Opinion Apparatus of the Hoover White House.” American Politics Research 31 (2): 540-556.
This article adds to the recent literature on the development and institutionalization of the public opinion apparatus by exploring the internal process for gauging public opinion in the Administration of Herbert Hoover. Although descriptions of the public opinion polling apparatus, which developed in the White House under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, are rich, there are few descriptions of the early public opinion apparatus. This article explains the process of gauging public opinion during the Hoover Administration through systematic collection, synthesis and analysis of opinion data from newspaper editorial summaries. In addition, this article describes the use of this data during three major events in the Hoover White House: the stock market crash in 1929, the outcome of the 1930 Congressional elections and the Soldiers’ Bonus Bill in 1931. In each case, the institutional design primarily allowed President Hoover to follow, rather than manipulate, public opinion.
Brandon Rottinghaus. 2003. “Reassessing Public Opinion Polling in the Truman Administration.” Presidential Studies
Quarterly 33 (4): 325-332.
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Amending popular, scholarly and primary source accounts of the utilization of public opinion polling in the Truman White House, evidence uncovered at the Truman Library indicates that public opinion polling was consulted by the Administration staff on selected issues primarily to adapt rhetorical strategy, maintain political information on key electoral and governing groups and shape campaign strategy during the 1948 election. This evidence is critical in evaluating and explaining the development and institutionalization of public opinion polling in the administrative apparatus of the White House and in showing the progression towards a poll-driven White House.