The Polls: Can Presidential Rhetoric Affect the Public's Economic Perceptions?



In this article, the authors ask whether presidential speech can affect public expectations of the economy, which they view as an overall indicator of public optimism or pessimism about the future. They argue that foreign policy speeches, because of their nature, will have stronger impacts on the public's future orientations than other types of speeches, in particular, economic and domestic policy speeches. This derives from the leadership image of the president presented in such speeches. Finally, the authors argue that the popularity of the president at the time of the speech is a potentially important context for speech giving. The authors hypothesize that presidents will be more persuasive when they are popular than when they are not. The authors test these ideas on monthly time series consumer economic expectations data. Strong confirmation is found for the impacts of speech type and the popularity context. The article concludes with thoughts about future research directions.