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The Lengthened Shadow of Another Institution? Ideal Point Estimates for the Executive Branch and Congress


  • We thank Ryan Bakker, Michael Crespin, Jeff Gill, David Lewis, Kevin Quinn, Shawn Treier, and Andrew Whitford for helpful comments and suggestions. David Ballard, Jennifer Connolly, Rachel Dolan, Jeremiah Garreston, Jenna Lukasik, Ellen Rubin, Michael Sanchez, and Frank Wilson provided invaluable research assistance. Funding from the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, Vanderbilt University's Research Scholar Grant Program, and the University of Georgia Research Foundation assisted us in the data collection for this project. Ideal point estimates and other data from this article are available for download at

Anthony M. Bertelli is the C. C. Crawford Chair in Management and Performance, School of Policy, Planning, and Development, USC Gould School of Law, University of Southern California, 201D Lewis Hall, 650 Childs Way, Los Angeles, CA 90089, and a Senior Lecturer in Politics, University of Manchester ( Christian R. Grose is Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Southern California, 327 VonKleinSmid, Los Angeles, CA 90089 (


While the president's relationship to Congress has been carefully studied, the broader executive branch has received far less attention in that context. Scholars rely on assumptions about the relationship between the president and cabinet departments that remain untested. We construct the first statistical portrait of executive branch ideology by estimating ideal points for members of Congress, presidents, and the heads of cabinet-level departments between 1991 and 2004 in a Bayesian framework. We empirically assess claims about the composition of the president's administrative team and the influence of institutions on the ideology of principal executive decision makers. We also test an important claim regarding the trade-off between ideological congruence and budgetary authority to demonstrate the utility of our estimates for other scholars. Our analysis reveals a new picture of the executive branch as ideologically diverse, casting into doubt some essential assumptions in a substantial body of work on the separation of powers.