Presidential Communication: The Art of Persuading the American People

Hi All,

My name is Mathew Hall and I’m a senior Political Science major at Middlebury College in Vermont.  

Through three years my studies have largely been based on the work of the late Richard Neustadt.  Specifically, it has focused on how Presidents can maximize their chances of successfully enacting their agenda.

One option, that has been employed by many Presidents, is to take their case to the American people.  This is essentially what Theodore Roosevelt called using the “bully pulpit” of the Presidency and it was formalized into a political science theory by Samuel Kernell in his 1986 book Going Public. This strategy for persuasion most often manifests itself as a never ending string of public speeches and appearance.  However, as anyone who has watched the news could tell you, this hasn’t always been successful.

Therefore, the question is: is there any evidence to suggest that this kind of permanent campaign works? and, if there isn’t, what alternatives are available?  This is what my paper will focus on.  First, trying to determine whether Kernell’s theory has any empirical support.  Second, to propose an alternative strategy for Presidential persuasion.  

To address these questions my investigation will focus on three cases from the Obama Presidency.  First, the push for the Affordable Care Act, second, the call for gun control legislation in the wake of the Newton massacre, and third, his call for Congressional action to response to Syria.

As for an alternative to Kernell’s theory, that is still a work in progress, yet I expect it will end up being a reinterpretation of the bully pulpit concept rather than a completely new concoction.

Good luck with fall semester to everyone and I’ll see you all in October.

 

 

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