The cornerstone of the public presidency is the ability of the White House to influence, shape, and even manipulate public opinion. Ultimately, although much has been written about presidential leadership of opinion, we are still left with many questions pertaining to the success of presidential opinion leadership efforts throughout the modern presidency. What is still missing is a systematic, sequential approach to describe empirical trends in presidential leadership of public opinion in order to expand on important scholarly queries, to resolve empirical disputes in the literature, and to check the accuracy of conventional political wisdom on how, when, and under what conditions presidents lead public opinion.
In The Provisional Pulpit, Brandon Rottinghaus develops a simple theory of presidential leadership, arguing that presidential messages are more likely to be received if there are fewer countervailing agents or messages to contradict the president’s message. He concludes, based upon the findings presented in this book, that the “bully pulpit” is largely provisional for modern presidents. The more the president can avoid the political echo chamber associated with partisan battles or communications, the better the chance the president has to lead public opinion.
The Provisional Pulpit adds an important layer of understanding to the issue of how and under what conditions presidents lead public opinion. All modern presidents clearly attempt to lead public opinion; often, due to factors outside their control, they fail.
This book is an exploration into how and when they succeed.
What Readers Are Saying:
"Recent research has described how broadly difficult it is for presidents to lead public opinion and thereby push through government policy changes they seek. Marshalling a comprehensive set of data and reporting new archival evidence, The Provisional Pulpit is an impressive piece of scholarship, that shows more precisely than previous work--in percentage point terms--how strikingly limited presidents are in their efforts to gain further public support for their specific proposals. Presidents and their advisors need to be reminded of the difficulties they will encounter if they try to do too much (especially during their first year in office), if they do not devote sustained attention around the country to the most important issues on their agenda, if they neglect to use opportunities for major national televised addresses, and if they do not do all of this while the president is still sufficiently popular. In these respects, The Provisional Pulpit is a major contribution."--Robert Shapiro, department of political science, Columbia University
“Brandon Rottinghaus has produced an interesting and important study of presidential leadership and public opinion. His study aims to uncover the factors that facilitate successful presidential leadership of public opinion, and he finds that presidents are most likely to succeed when they are already popular, when they give the issue in question considerable attention, and when there are few countervailing forces inhibiting such persuasion. The study relies on both statistical and archival data, and as such makes both methodological and substantive contributions to the field of presidential leadership and public opinion.”—Mary E. Stuckey, professor of communication and political science, Georgia State University
"Rottinghaus makes an important contribution to the ever-expanding scholarship on the public presidency, particularly on the question of a president's effectiveness at leading public opinion. This is a thorough analysis, relying on both quantitative and qualitative data, to provide the reader with an excellent understanding of why some presidents have succeeded and why others have failed to shift the public's policy preferences to be more in line with his own. This book also reminds us of the many leadership challenges faced by contemporary presidents in our media-saturated political environment."--Lori Cox Han, professor of political science, Chapman University
“Overall, the aptly titled The Provisional Pulpit provides essential modifications to the emerging conventional wisdom that presidents are simply unable to reliably lead public opinion. The book is an accessible and essential contribution to the study of presidential leadership.”—Jeffrey S. Peake, Presidential Studies Quarterly