Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy > Vol 1 > Issue 1

Rethinking Public Appeals: Experimental Evidence on Presidential Performances

William G. Howell, University of Chicago, Sydney Stein Professor of American Politics, USA, , Ethan Porter, George Washington University, Assistant Professor, School of Media and Public Affairs, USA, , Thomas J. Wood, The Ohio State University, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, USA,
Suggested Citation
William G. Howell, Ethan Porter and Thomas J. Wood (2020), "Rethinking Public Appeals: Experimental Evidence on Presidential Performances", Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy: Vol. 1: No. 1, pp 137-158.

Publication Date: 10 Mar 2020
© 2020 W. G. Howell, E. Porter, and T. J. Wood
Presidential Politics,  Public Opinion
Public appealspresidentperformancepublic opinion


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In this article:
The Efficacy of Presidential Appeals 
The Presidentialism Scale 
Experimental Findings 
Political Implications of Presidentialism Scale 


While scholars have traditionally evaluated the influence of presidential appeals on approval and policy preferences, we investigate a different site of possible effects: on the public's evaluations of whether the president represents the best interests of the country, embodies national values, and fulfills the essential obligations of his office — that is, whether he is presidential. We construct a novel presidentialism scale, which we show to be meaningfully distinct from other measures of perceptions of the president. Across four experiments conducted during the Trump presidency, we recover consistently positive and substantively large effects. Members of the public randomly encouraged to watch Trump's Inaugural Address were more likely to say that he fulfills the duties, expectations, and norms of his office. Though these effects attenuated in magnitude, they remained discernible in every experiment we conducted. We find no evidence that Trump's addresses changed people's policy views. Our findings point toward new ways of assessing the character and significance of presidential appeals.



Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy, Volume 1, Issue 1 Special issue - The Political Economy of Executive Politics
See the other articles that are part of this special issue.