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Canes-Wrone: The president's legislative influence from public appeals

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Canes-Wrone. 2001. The president's legislative influence from public appeals. American Journal of Political Science.

In Brief

Problem

Although scholars (e.g. Kernell 1997) have noticed that presidents have plebiscitary powers (i.e. "going public"), no study has systematically shown that going public actually influences policy outcomes. Canes-Wrone does so.

Solution, in brief

Presidents must strategically choose which issues to promote to the public: The president will promote issues (1) on which his view if popular and (2) Congress is not likely to act in the president's favor unless the president goes public.

Hypotheses and Model

Model's assumptions

  1. Presidents are rational and policy-driven.
  2. MCs have mixed incentives. On the one hand, they want to be reelected, but on the other, they also need to appease their party, their committees, their lobbyists, and their own ideals. Thus, MCs do not necessarily vote the way their constituents might want.
  3. MCs are most likely to vote as their constituents want if the issue is salient to the public.
  4. Going public has the effect of increasing salience.
  5. Going public too frequently causes people to pay less attention to the president.

These assumptions imply...

  1. The president will not go public unless the public supports his view--otherwise, he would make the issue salient, but that would only lead MCs to vote against the president.

Hypotheses

  1. The "influence" hypothesis: "A president should gain influence on policy issues he chooses to promote in public appeals" (p 315).
  2. The "proposal popularity" hypothesis: "A president's likelihood of appealing to the public should be positively correlated with the popularity of his policy proposal."
  3. The "difficult issue" hypothesis: "A president's likelihood of appealing to the public over an issue should be negatively correlated with his expected influence absent this action." (Since he doesn't want to overuse going public, he only does it when Congress isn't likely to act in his favor otherwise.)

Data

  1. Uses appropriations data, like Kiewiet and McCubbins did for their bargaining model. Compares what the president requests with what he gets.
  2. Codes televised speeches by the president as "going public."
  3. A whole bunch of other variables.

Analysis/Findings

Uses simultaneous estimation to estimate the two models on p 318. Confirms the hypotheses, showing that going public really does profit presidents.

  • Using "what's the most important issue" surveys, she finds which issues are important to the public around the time that the president proposes his budget. Sure enough, the president highlights issues that he knows the public supports.