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Dometrius: Measuring gubernatorial power

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Dometrius. 1979. Measuring gubernatorial power. Journal of Politics 41: 589-610.


see Abstract

(from a handout)

SCHLESINGER'S FAULTS (see Chart 1, p 591):

  • MAIN CRITIQUE: The basic objections are as follows: are the measures appropriate (for example, does governor's term have anything to do with gubernatorial power), are the measures the same in magnitude (the index treats them so), and are the measures subject to overlap (consider the differences between budgetary power and the power to appoint those that make budget requests)? REMEMBER: The math in an index makes substantive assumptions about reality. [of course, Dometrius repeats this problem on his own.]
  • The problem with the current ranking of appointment power is the lack of interval measurement (the numbers don't mean anything).
  • Dometrius believes that tenure in office is an inexact measure, and probably useless since we must consider strength of party in the state (not to mention the existence of factions) before we can suggest the ability of the governor to make credible punishment threats (therefore making administrative officials obedient).
  • Veto power must be adjusted since we don't know the differences between override levels (such as 2/3rds or 3/5ths).
  • Budgetary powers must also be examined closely, since there is likely a difference in bargaining between other elected officials and those that have independent sources of power.


  • Appointment power is the most significant measure, and must be weighted as such. (Based on Table 2, p 595).
  • Appointment power will be an improved measure of gubernatorial power if it is scored on an absolute basis.
  • Tenure power is not significantly related, and should be dropped.
  • Veto and budgetary power are mildly related and should be reduced.


  • Computes gubernatorial power to a D.V. with a -1.0 to 1.0 scale by this formula: (Gi-Li)/(Gi+Ei+Li). Coming from Wright's survey (discussed in the article), G denotes those responding the governor is powerful, L denotes legislature is powerful, and E denotes those that responded power is the same. "i" can be substituted for any specific state. So you compute gubernatorial power by asking a bunch of bureaucrats and administration officials, "Who has more control over your agency, G, L, or E?"
  • His measures are better than Schlesinger's, across the board. Regression is available on p. 605, and the new measure of Governor's Power is Chart 2, on p. 609.
  • Changing veto and budgetary powers to dichotomous variables improves the R^2.


  • MAJOR THREAT: see Table 1 (p 594). Appointed officials think the governor is more powerful than elected officials do (55% vs 8%). Thus, variations across states in how much these appointment methods are used would strongly affect the survey results.
  • WEIGHTING THREAT: He criticizes Schlesinger for using poor weighting; Dometrius uses different weighting, but doesn't prove that his weighting is better.
  • While Dometrius explains away his perceived problems, I am worried about a testing threat. How candid are administrative officials when polled? Is there a systematic bias in this regard.
  • There is no mention of informal arrangements. (e.g. some states have informal arrangments to help policymaking continue in light of divided government).
  • If I were trying to measure gubernatorial power, I would probably pay more attention to the institutions of the state and perhaps how often the governor gets rolled.