Defined: a strategy whereby a president promotes himself and his policies in Washington by appealing directly to the American public for support Examples: Reagan’s media campaign to promote his budget proposals of shrinking social spending and increasing defense spending ▪ Reagan vowed to campaign against Democrats voting against his budget
Woodrow Wilson’s failed public campaign to get the U.S. Senate to ratify the Versailles Treaty President Clintons failed strategy of going public to rally support for his health care reform proposal during 1993-1994
Obama on Healthcare (Iyengar) Obama going public to pressure Congress to Leading House GOP figures compromise plan gets shot down increase taxes on the wealthy Sen. Rand Paul: Cut military spending
"Overall, do you support or oppose raising taxes on incomes over 250 thousand dollars ayear?" Support Oppose Unsure % % % ALL 60 37 3 Democrats 73 26 1 Republicans 39 59 2 Independents 63 33 4"Overall, do you support or oppose reducing deductions people can claim on their federalincome taxes?" Support Oppose Unsure % % % 11/21-25/12 44 49 8
Most Republicans won far more than 51 percent of the vote Eric Cantor 17-percentage- point advantage. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp just won with a 32-point margin Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers won by a whopping 56 points. Norquists no-tax pledge has survived challenges before
Dan Wood: The Myth of Presidential Representation Presidents are partisans, not centrists, who try to move the public toward their party’s policies Most of the time they are not successful! In fact, the public moves away from, not toward, the president’s policies over time. Why? Because the public realizes they are passing policies on the left or the right. But presidents only need to be marginally successful to gain majority support (their party +)
Short time after election When the president has very high approval levels (which requires a permanent campaign) When his party controls other institutions, especially Congress
Message Machine Behind Analysts, the Pentagon’s Hidden Hand , 2005 A PENTAGON CAMPAIGN Retired officers have been used to shape terrorism coverage from inside the TV and radio networks.Most of the “analysts” have ties to military contractors vested in thevery war policies they are asked to assess on air.
NYT: “On Opinion Page, a Lobbys Hand Is Often Unseen” The Bush administration acknowledged that it used public funds to pay conservative media commentators to write columns in favor of its policies. Armstrong Williams, the conservative columnist and television commentator was paid $240,000 to promote the Education Department policy known as No Child Left Behind. Williams column was cancelled by the Tribune Company, which had previously syndicated his work. Bottom line: Columnists often fail to reveal their true identities that pose a clear conflict of interest
So what influences presidential support? Merchandising or History? News coverage or Events?
American troops have been sent into harms way many times since1945, but in only three cases -- Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq -- have theybeen drawn into sustained ground combat and suffered more than300 deaths in action. American public opinion became a key factor inall three wars, and in each one there has been a simple association:as casualties mount, support decreases. Broad enthusiasm at theoutset invariably erodes. The only thing remarkable about the current war in Iraq is how precipitously American public support has dropped off. Casualty for casualty, support has declined far more quickly than it did during either the Korean War or the Vietnam War. And if history is any indication, there is little the Bush administration can do to reverse this decline. More important, the impact of deteriorating support will not end when the war does. In the wake of the wars in Korea and Vietnam, the American public developed a strong aversion to embarking on such ventures again. A similar sentiment -- an "Iraq syndrome" -- seems to be developing now, and it will have important consequences for U.S. foreign policy for years after the last American battalion leaves Iraqi soil.
“Event Response theory” of public support for war opinions about foreign policy adjust directly to dynamic world events in sensible ways Mueller (1973, War, Presidents and Public Opinion): people will shirk from international involvement in the face of battle deaths Larson (1996): the collective public decides whether to support a conflict based on a rational cost/benefit calculation. The greater the perceived stakes, the clearer the objectives, and the higher the probability of success, the greater the level of public support for war.
Contradicted by evidence at the individual-level Lack of political information about many things, including events Perceptions of the economy and war casualties are heavily colored by political biases (e.g., partisanship) Events are not self-interpreting Iyengar: Elites (politicians and media) respond to events and the public appears to be responding to events, but only because they are taking their cues from elites. Presidents have more control over foreign policy events and their news coverage and their interpretation by other elites. ▪ News coverage of war and crises: President has the upper hand and can silence the opposition party, which influences news coverage and public response. Much more control than with, say, unemployment. ▪ PresidentOpposition partyNews coveragePublic OpinionPresidential Support