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Presidential Road Show: Public Leadership in an Era of Party Polarization and Media Fragmentation
     

Presidential Road Show: Public Leadership in an Era of Party Polarization and Media Fragmentation

by Diane J. Heith
 

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In The Presidential Road Show: Public Leadership in a Partisan Era, Diane J. Heith evaluates presidential leadership by critically examining a fundamental tenet of the presidency: the national nature of the office. The fact that the entire nation votes for the office seemingly imbues the presidency with leadership opportunities that rest on appeals to

Overview

In The Presidential Road Show: Public Leadership in a Partisan Era, Diane J. Heith evaluates presidential leadership by critically examining a fundamental tenet of the presidency: the national nature of the office. The fact that the entire nation votes for the office seemingly imbues the presidency with leadership opportunities that rest on appeals to the mass public. Yet, presidents earn the office not by appealing to the nation but rather by assembling a coalition of supporters, predominantly partisans. Moreover, once in office, recent presidents have had trouble controlling their message in the fragmented media environment. Analyses of presidential behavior belie the presence of national leadership. Presidents give fewer addresses to the nation, preferring instead to speak in smaller, local venues. In addition, these efforts at “going public” barely influence public opinion or congressional action. Using a data set containing not only speech content but also the classification of the audience, Diane J. Heith finds that rhetorical leadership is constituency driven and targets different audiences at different times and in different places. Moreover, the scope of electoral victory influences presidential leadership strategies. Comparing tone, content, and tactics of national and local speeches reveals that presidents are abandoning national “going public” strategies in favor of local leadership efforts that may be tailored to the variety of political contexts a president must confront.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[This book does] a commendable job investigating important aspects of the public presidency and…educating readers on the realities of “going public” and the concomitant aspects of presidential engagement with the public. [The book] will also be of interest to scholars toiling in adjacent or relevant fields and to instructors who are searching for engaging and intrepid volumes to include on their upper-division and graduate American politics course syllabi”

—Presidential Studies Quarterly

“The Presidential Road Show offers a provocative framework that scholars will be better able to test as new presidents provide additional data points. For that reason—and many more—Heith’s book is a valuable contribution to the growing literature that seeks to better understand the communication of America’s most important political figure.”

–Political Communication

“Past research into ‘going public’ has probed its use as a presidential strategy, its influence on public opinion and its impact on Washingtonians. None of these inquiries involved more than a quick, superficial glance at what presidents actually had to say and to whom. Thanks to Diane Heith’s careful, systematic analysis of presidents’ rhetoric, we now know.”

—Samuel Kernell, University of California–San Diego and author of Going Public

“The Presidential Road Show is a powerfully argued book that takes seriously the context in which presidents operate. Heith argues that changes in the election process and media environment have made it more difficult for presidents to govern. This book helps us understand why presidents have had such a difficult time navigating the choppy waters of the modern political world, and how they might develop new strategies for governing a fragmented nation.”

—Michael A. Genovese, Loyola Marymount University

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594518508
Publisher:
Taylor & Francis
Publication date:
02/28/2013
Series:
Media and Power Series
Pages:
192
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

Diane J. Heith is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Government and Politics at St. John’s University. She is the author of Polling to Govern: Public Opinion and Presidential Leadership, coauthor of American Presidents and the Presidency, and coeditor of In the Public Domain: Presidents and the Challenges of Public Leadership. Her work has appeared in Public Opinion Quarterly, Presidential Studies Quarterly, Political Science Quarterly, The Journal of Women, Politics and Policy, and Congress and the Presidency.

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