Meador Center for Politics and Citizenship

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


Political heavyweights Tom Nichols, Sarah Kendzior to speak in October

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Sept. 6, 2017 — Drury University’s Meador Center for Politics & Citizenship kicks off its 2017 speaker series in October with two of the most active voices in America’s online political landscape today, representing views from both the left and the right.

From the left, St. Louis-based writer and journalist Sarah Kendzior will speak at 6 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 3. From the right, political scientist and author Tom Nichols will speak at 6:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 30. Both events will be held at Lay Hall Auditorium and are open to the public.

The Center’s theme this year is “Politics, Activism, and Voice: A Toolbox for Democracy,” with speakers and events focused on empowering citizens to engage with government and civic life.

“Tom Nichols and Sarah Kendzior both exemplify what it means to be actively engaged in American political life,” says Dr. Daniel Ponder, professor of political science and director of the Meador Center. “They are academic experts in their field, regular commentators on the national stage, and passionate writers who care deeply about the future of our democracy.”

Kendzior is best known for her reporting on St. Louis and coverage of the 2016 presidential election. Her best-selling essay collection, “The View From Flyover Country,” was published in 2015. She is currently an op-ed columnist for the Toronto-based Globe and Mail, and has written for POLITICO, The Guardian, Slate, The Atlantic, The Chicago Tribune, Fast Company, The New York Times, and more. She is a frequent guest on NPR, Al Jazeera, BBC World Service and other outlets, and is a recurring guest on MSNBC’s “AM Joy.” Kendzior holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from Washington University. Her academic research focuses primarily on the authoritarian states of the former Soviet Union and how the Internet affects political mobilization, self-expression, and trust.

Nichols is a professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College in Rhode Island. He is a former Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., and taught international relations and Russian affairs at Dartmouth College and Georgetown University before joining the War College. He is the author of several works on foreign policy and international security affairs, including “No Use: Nuclear Weapons and U.S. National Security” and “Eve of Destruction: The Coming Age of Preventive War.” His most recent book, “The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters,” was published this spring. Nichols is also a five-time undefeated “Jeopardy!” champion, and is listed in the show’s Hall of Fame. This week he was named to POLITICO’s annual list of “50 idea blowing up American politics – and the people behind them.”

Both Nichols and Kendzior are extremely actively on Twitter, where they engage issues and their fellow citizens daily. They have nearly 400,000 combined followers. You can follow them at @RadioFreeTom and @sarahkendzior.

More speakers in the 2017 series will be announced throughout the year.