Cover of Presidential Leverage by Daniel E. Ponder
Presidential Leverage
Presidents, Approval, and the American State
Daniel E. Ponder

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December 2017
224 pages.
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Cloth ISBN: 9781503602830
Paper ISBN: 9781503604063

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For scholars, pundits, the public, and presidents themselves, presidential approval is an evergreen subject. Its actual impact, however, is often unclear: all too frequently approval is reported in a vacuum, dissociated from the American state writ large. Presidential Leverage reaffirms the importance of this contested metric. By situating approval within the context of public trust in government, Daniel E. Ponder reveals how approval shapes presidential strategies for governing, providing a useful measure of the president's place in the political system.

The leverage that presidents derive from public opinion exercises considerable influence on their incentives and opportunities for action. Though it is more tenuous and fragile than the authority they derive from the Constitution or the law, it makes certain kinds of executive action more attractive at a given time. Using a quantitative index of presidential leverage, Ponder examines this contextualized approval from John F. Kennedy's administration through Barack Obama's, showing how it has shaped presidential capacity and autonomy, agenda setting, landmark legislation, and unilateral action. His analysis sheds light not only on the complexities of presidential power, but also on a broad swath of national politics and the American state.

About the author

Daniel E. Ponder is L. E. Meador Professor of Political Science and Director of the Meador Center for Politics and Citizenship at Drury University.