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Presidential Rhetoric, the Public Agenda, and the End of Presidential Television's “Golden Age”


Garry Young ( is associate director of the George Washington Institute of Public Policy and associate research professor of political science at George Washington University, Washington, D.C. 20052.

The late William B. Perkins was a Ph.D. candidate in political science, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, MO 65211-6030.


The rise of alternative viewing choices, brought about by the spread of cable television, has effectively reduced the audience for major presidential addresses. Has this change moderated the influence of major presidential speeches on public opinion? After examining the period from 1954 to 2002, we provide evidence that the impact of presidential rhetoric in State of the Union addresses on public opinion has diminished as cable has flourished.