Presidential Responsiveness and Marginalized Groups

For my project I plan on focusing on the topic of “presidential responsiveness,” an area of research concerned with the factors that influence a president’s agenda and motivate the actions a president takes in any given issue area. Specifically, I am interested in presidential responsiveness to the interests of marginalized groups that are highly supportive of that president. In other words, when and why do presidents take on the risk of advocating on behalf such groups when there is a minimal risk of losing their support without such actions? What lessons does this provide for groups seeking attention from presidents?

My initial plan is to focus on the LGBT community as my “marginalized demographic group” and examine the relationship between Democratic presidents and/or presidential candidates and this community. One thought I had was to compare the actions of Presidents Clinton and Obama, attempting to use a comparative analysis to see what has allowed President Obama to take stronger positions on behalf of LGBT interests than President Clinton. Is it simply a shift in public opinion, or are there other factors that motivate President Obama’s decisions? I may also focus on just President Obama, and try to determine how his own responsiveness to this marginalize group has shifted in only a few years, and what the motivating variables behind that shift may be. To avoid the confounding effects of the sizeable time-span between the Clinton and Obama administrations, I may instead look as presidential candidates so as to examine a more continuous timeframe.

The challenges I face right now are in determining the best research design for answering my question. My goal is to incorporate quantitative data, so it is important to carefully plan a valid and reliable method for testing my hypotheses in a systematic manner. I am hopeful that exploring existing literature on presidential responsiveness in addition to historical content regarding actions relevant to LGBT policy will give me a better understanding of what tools are available and how I can best approach my question. After reviewing the literature, I plan on identifying two or three hypotheses and using an in-depth set of qualitative and quantitative methods to test these hypotheses.

While answering this question completely would take years of research, I am hopeful that I can gain some reliable insights and provide credible guidance for future investigation. I welcome any comments or suggestions.

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