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How Policy Conditions the Impact of Presidential Speeches on Legislative Success


  • *Direct correspondence to Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha, Department of Political Science, 125 Wooten Hall, 1155 Union Circle #305340, Denton, TX 76203-5017 〈〉. Data and coding information are available from the author to those who wish to replicate this study. Previous version presented at Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago IL, 2007. Thanks to the University of North Texas for providing research assistance for this project, John Bond and Richard Fleisher (1990) for making their roll-call vote data available online, and Brandice Canes-Wrone and Scott de Marchi (2002) for providing their data. Thanks to Paul Collins for his helpful suggestions. Many thanks as well to Chris Williams, Ryan Salzman, and Christine Harper for additional data collection.


Objective. Although the impact of the president's rhetoric on public opinion remains unfound, it appears to increase the president's success in Congress. This article argues that instead of moving public opinion, presidential speeches act as informational cues for legislators and holds that the impact of the president's public speeches in Congress is conditional on the salience and complexity of the policy voted on by Congress.

Method. I use probit methodology to examine the effect of presidential rhetoric on the likelihood of presidential success on House roll-call votes from 1989–2000. An interactive model assesses the conditioning impact a policy's salience and complexity have on the relationship between presidential rhetoric and legislative success.

Results. Presidential rhetoric increases the president's legislative success on votes pertaining to policies that are both salient and complex.

Conclusion. Presidential rhetoric matters to the president's relationship with Congress, despite the limited impact it appears to have on public opinion.