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Presidential Campaigns and Presidential Accountability

Presidential Campaigns and Presidential Accountability

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    Presidential Campaigns and Presidential Accountability
    Book Description:

    In investigating the presidential campaigns and early administrations of Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, Presidential Campaigns and Presidential Accountability shows how campaign promises are realized in government once the victor is established in the Oval Office. To measure correlations between presidential campaigns and policy-making, Michele P. Claibourn closely examines detailed campaign advertising information, survey data about citizen's responses to campaigns, processes that create expectations among constituents, and media attention and response to candidates. _x000B__x000B_Disputing the notion that presidents ignore campaign issues upon being elected, Presidential Campaigns and Presidential Accountability contends that candidates raise issues that matter and develop ideas to address these issues based on voter reactions. Conventional disappointment in presidential campaigns stems from a misunderstanding of the role that presidents play in a system of separate institutions sharing power, and Claibourn forces us to think about presidential campaigns in the context of the presidency--what the president realistically can and cannot do. Based on comparisons of the Clinton, Bush, and Obama campaigns and the first years of the subsequent presidential administrations, Claibourn builds a generalized theory of agenda accountability, showing how presidential action is constrained by campaign agendas.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09316-6
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

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    (pp. 1-8)

    Presidential election campaigns, and the electorate at which they are aimed, routinely come under fire from scholars, journalists, and pundits alike. Political analysts push candidates to clarify their policy differences. Scholars criticize campaigns for containing too little issue substance and specificity. And both shake their heads solemnly at voters who cannot correctly identify the policy positions of the candidates. Reading the critics, the presidential campaign hardly sounds like a successful process for choosing leaders, much less an effective link in democratic accountability.

    In fact, presidential candidates are generally clear on at least one thing—their lists of problems and priorities....

  2. 1 The Meaning of Presidential Accountability
    (pp. 9-24)

    Democratic accountability is at the heart of a functioning democracy. Our current understanding of accountability, though, does not fit comfortably with the American system of separate institutions competing for shares of power. Citizens, meanwhile, stubbornly refuse to strive for the standards laid out by democratic theorists. Behavioral scholars have long sought to save the citizens from irrelevancy by noting alternative ways the public can come to act “as if” they are exercising accountability. If, instead, we begin by placing the institutions in which leaders reside at the center of the equation, we come to a different understanding of accountability—one...

  3. 2 Agenda Accountability in Action
    (pp. 25-40)

    Presidential approval is the main mechanism for the public, en masse, to respond to presidential behavior outside of elections. Presidential approval, the percent of the public who “approve of the way [the incumbent] is handling his job as president,” reflects the contemporary consent of the populace for the use of presidential authority. These familiar approval ratings have been called the “Dow Jones index for politics” (Brehm 1993) and a perpetual election (Hodgson 1980). Clearly, the idea of presidential popularity as a means of informal accountability is not new. Yet approval has not been directly tied to campaign evaluations or incorporated...

  4. 3 Campaigning on Issues
    (pp. 41-55)

    To promote accountability, candidates must talk about issues. Fortunately, presidential campaigns are filled with issue talk—in debates, in speeches, in television advertising. Given the quadrennial laments of political observers, this may be a surprising assertion, though it is one increasingly accepted by scholars of campaigns.

    Take political advertisements, long considered the most debased form of campaign communication (Franz et al. 2007): In the 2000 presidential campaign, 69 percent of the ads aired on television focused on policy issues, and another 24 percent emphasized both policy and personal characteristics. Only 7 percent contained no issue information at all. And the...

  5. 4 Hearing the Campaign
    (pp. 56-71)

    If a campaign talks about issues, and in doing so conveys the candidates’ agenda priorities, do citizens hear these agenda priorities? This is the next necessary step for campaign-induced agenda accountability. If this key message of the presidential campaign is not accurately received by citizens, then citizens can hardly use these priorities as a standard of judgment for the new president.

    Scholars of elections long doubted the effectiveness of campaigns in influencing the vote. The strong correlation between the vote and preexisting attitudes—partisan identification, incumbent approval and perceptions of the national economy, and so forth—at the individual level...

  6. 5 Candidate Messages and Citizen Expectations
    (pp. 72-89)

    Presidential candidates offer clear and competing agendas in the campaign. Citizens, for the most part, pick up these agendas. If citizens select a candidate in part on the basis of that agenda, this is a version of issue voting, one based on priorities, not positions. Thus, the public need only vote for the candidate whose priorities best align with their own for the campaign to produce informed choice. One way this might occur is through priming, where a citizen who considers a problem—for example, climate change—a high government priority comes to weight that priority more heavily in evaluating...

  7. 6 Campaign Connections and Presidential Evaluations
    (pp. 90-113)

    Campaigns convey to citizens information about the priorities of presidential candidates. Citizens use this information in evaluating the prospective leaders, and for key issues they do so in a way that suggests the development of longer-term expectations. What effect do these citizen understandings have on leader behavior? And what effect does subsequent leader behavior have on the public’s evaluations of a president?

    Much has been written on the role of the president in policy making, particularly on his role in the legislative arena (Bond and Fleisher 1992; Jones 2005; Light 1999; Neustadt 1990; Peterson 1993). One thing past research has...

  8. 7 Beyond the Voting Booth: CLINTON 1993 AND OBAMA 2009
    (pp. 114-147)

    Bush’s early presidency allowed us to examine the consequences for accountability of three of the four campaign agenda outcomes—agenda follow-through (education and tax cuts), agenda neglect (Social Security), and consistent neglect, or de-emphasis in both the campaign and administration. To further generalize the expectations of agenda accountability and to add some cases in the as-yet-unobserved outcome, agenda interruption, this chapter turns to a similar, though necessarily briefer, examination of President Clinton’s and President Obama’s first years in office.

    Clinton and Obama offer the opportunity to consider the theory for Democratic presidents and in the context of negative economic conditions....

  9. 8 Campaign-Driven Accountability
    (pp. 148-160)

    Our ideas of accountability, and the definitions of good campaigns and competent citizens that derive from them, shape what we demand from candidates and leaders and from the media and voters. And what we demand is not always realistic or wise.

    Campaigns and elections offer an unrivaled opportunity for the public and leaders to interact. The operation of campaigns is important for the legitimacy of democratic government; the outcomes are important for the actions of government. We need campaigns and elections to work well. But what does it mean for a campaign to be good? What do we want campaigns...

  10. APPENDIX A: Most Frequently Aired Ads in 2000
    (pp. 161-164)
  11. APPENDIX B: Estimated Models for Chapter 4
    (pp. 165-168)
  12. APPENDIX C: Estimated Models for Chapter 5
    (pp. 169-174)