The Political Economy of Presidential Approval

My basic research question is: What factors affect public evaluations of the president? Certainly academics have spilled a lot of ink on this subject. A large literature identifies three classes of variables as “fundamental”: economic performance, partisan polarization in the electorate, and structural features of the political system such as separation of powers. I hope to improve our understanding of the relative importance of the fundamentals over time using monthly approval data. The analysis will cover the period from 1952 to 2012. While my central focus will be on the American presidency, the project will also include a brief comparative analysis of presidential and prime ministerial approval ratings across countries, which I believe will serve to illuminate unique features of American government and relate them to executive popularity. 

Looking forward to reading and hearing about everyone’s project —

Patrick Kennedy

About Patrick Kennedy

I am a student at Stanford University, where my research interests include studies of the presidency, bureaucracy, and political parties.
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2 Responses to The Political Economy of Presidential Approval

  1. chanpeterkim says:

    Hi Patrick,

    Studying the formation of presidential approval is definitely an important and relevant topic, and as you mentioned, this has been a widely studied topic in political science.

    One thing I would suggest is to both add a bit more focus to your research question, which will help distinguish your research from already existing literature. Are you challenging the three “fundamental” determinants of presidential approval? Are you attempting to determine which of the “fundamental” determinants is most influential in shaping approval?

    Also, I would consider the fact that different presidents had different lists of urgent priorities. Pres. Bush 43 had to make a decision following 9/11 which affected his approval while Pres Obama did not have that level of a domestic terrorist attack. So if you’re studying the mentioned “fundamental ” determinants of approval or any specific set of variables, it might be better to compare administrations who have had somewhat similar priorities and political contexts.

  2. Patrick Kennedy says:

    Hi Chan,

    Thank you for your comment. As I wrote in my post, I’m hoping to untangle “the relative importance of the fundamentals over time.” So yes, a main premise of the analysis is that different administrations face varying priorities and political contexts.

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