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Who Governs?: Presidents, Public Opinion, and Manipulation

by James N Druckman and Lawrence R Jacobs University of Chicago Press
Pub Date:
03/2015
ISBN:
9780226234410
Format:
Pbk 192 pages
Price:
AU$46.99 NZ$46.95
Product Status: In Stock Now
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America’s model of representational government rests on the premise that elected officials respond to the opinions of citizens. This is a myth, however, not a reality, according to James N. Druckman and Lawrence R. Jacobs. In Who Governs?, Druckman and Jacobs combine existing research with novel data from US presidential archives to show that presidents make policy by largely ignoring the views of most citizens in favor of affluent and well-connected political insiders. Presidents treat the public as pliable, priming it to focus on personality traits and often ignoring it on policies that fail to become salient.

Melding big debates about democratic theory with existing research on American politics and innovative use of the archives of three modern presidents—Johnson, Nixon, and Reagan—Druckman and Jacobs deploy lively and insightful analysis to show that the conventional model of representative democracy bears little resemblance to the actual practice of American politics. The authors conclude by arguing that polyarchy and the promotion of accelerated citizen mobilization and elite competition can improve democratic responsiveness. An incisive study of American politics and the flaws of representative government, this book will be warmly welcomed by readers interested in US politics, public opinion, democratic theory, and the fecklessness of American leadership and decision-making.

Introduction

Part I. Political Representation and Presidential Manipulation

Chapter 1. Presidential Crafted Talk and Democratic Theory
Chapter 2. The Political Strategy of Tracking the Public

Part II. Presidential Strategies to Shape Public Opinion

Chapter 3. How White House Strategy Drives the Collection and Use of Its Polling
Chapter 4. Segmented Representation
Chapter 5. Elite Strategies to Prime Issues and Image

Part III. America’s Democratic Dilemmas

Chapter 6. The Effects and Limits of Presidential Efforts to Move Public Opinion
Chapter 7. Rethinking Representation

Acknowledgments
Notes
References
Index

Martin Gilens, Princeton University

"This fascinating study, based on confidential documents from three US presidents, sheds new light on the relationship between America’s political elites and its citizens. The picture is not pretty: presidents of both political parties seek to manipulate, distract, and often mislead the public in their pursuit of narrow interests that do not benefit the majority of citizens. A compelling, important, and sobering account that underscores just how far America has drifted from the democratic ideal of a government of, by, and for the people."


Lisa Disch, University of Michigan


“Who Governs? Is a very significant contribution to our understanding of how presidents do not simply respond to public opinion but participate in crafting it. A breakthrough.”
James N. Druckman is the Payson S. Wild Professor of Political Science and Faculty Fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University and an honorary professor of political science at Aarhus University in Denmark.

Lawrence R. Jacobs is the Walter F. And Joan Mondale Chair for Political Studies at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and the Department of Political Science at the University of Minnesota.