New book by DU professor explores “Presidential Leverage”

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Jan. 30, 2018 — How does a president’s popularity affect his or her ability to govern effectively? A new book by Drury University Political Science Professor Dr. Daniel E. Ponder seeks to answer that question in a quantifiable way.

“Presidential Leverage: Presidents, Approval and the American State,” published by Stanford University Press, examines an aspect of the presidency that is frequently talked about, but not always clearly understood. Approval ratings are usually reported in a vacuum, dissociated from the American state as a whole. Ponder’s research reveals how these ratings shape presidential strategies by situating them within the context of public trust in government.

Ponder’s “Index of Presidential Leverage,” is essentially calculated by dividing presidential approval by the public’s trust in government. The more the public’s esteem for the president exceeds the trust in government, the more leverage a president has in the political world. Using this index, Ponder’s book examines each administration from John F. Kennedy’s through Barack Obama’s, and demonstrates how leverage has shaped presidential capacity and autonomy, agenda setting, landmark legislation, and unilateral action.

Dr. Daniel E. Ponder

“Just looking at approval ratings as a measure of power really ignores the rest of government and the system as a whole,” Ponder says. “Americans view the presidency in a fundamentally different light than the rest of the federal government. Trust matters, and when the president is seen as the ‘best’ or ‘only’ game in town relative to the other branches, then the executive has more leverage to enact their agenda.”

MORE: Read how President Trump measures up so far in the Index of Presidential Leverage in a blog post by Dr. Ponder at the Stanford University Press website.

About the Author

Dr. Daniel Ponder is the L.E. Meador Professor of Political Science and Director of the Meador Center for Politics and Citizenship at Drury University. He is a presidential scholar whose previous book, “Good Advice: Information and Policy Making in the White House,” was published by Texas A&M University Press.

He is a frequent commentator on American and Missouri politics for both local and national media outlets, including NPR’s Morning Edition, the Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and CBS Radio. Ponder has also written several published book chapters, articles, and essays in journals such as Presidential Studies Quarterly, American Politics Research, Congress and the Presidency, Political Science and Politics, and the International Journal of Public Administration.

Praise for “Presidential Leverage”

“Daniel Ponder has unearthed one of the most important theoretical and empirical advances in the presidency studies in decades. It is not presidential approval that matters but approval nested in public trust of government that yields political leverage for the highest office in the land.” —Raymond Tatalovich, Loyola University-Chicago

“Dan Ponder’s research reminds us that presidents lead in a complex political environment. ‘Presidential Leverage’ helps us to understand a wide range of presidential decisions, from agenda-setting to unilateral policy-making. Using rigorous quantitative analysis, this book sheds light on many facets of presidential behavior. It is an important read for scholars of the American presidency.” — Julia Azari, Marquette University

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