AUTHORS’ NOTE: The authors thank Steve Nicholson for bringing the CBS News/New York Times survey to their attention. They also thank Elizabeth Sharrow for research assistance, and Jeffrey Cohen, Nicole Druckman, George Edwards, Bill Flanigan, Larry Jacobs, Kurt Lang, Colleen Miller, Joanne Miller, and Steve Nicholson for helpful advice.
Does Presidential Rhetoric Matter? Priming and Presidential Approval†
Article first published online: 17 NOV 2004
Presidential Studies Quarterly
Volume 34, Issue 4, pages 755–778, December 2004
How to Cite
DRUCKMAN, J. N. and HOLMES, J. W. (2004), Does Presidential Rhetoric Matter? Priming and Presidential Approval. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 34: 755–778. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-5705.2004.00222.x
- Issue published online: 17 NOV 2004
- Article first published online: 17 NOV 2004
The public's approval of the president plays a critical role in determining the president's power and policy-making success. Scholars and pundits have thus devoted a large amount of attention to explaining the dynamics of presidential approval. Surprisingly, this work has overlooked one of the more important potential forces behind approval—that is, what the president himself says. In this article, we examine the direct impact of presidential rhetoric on approval. We do so by combining a content analysis of the 2002 State of the Union address with both a laboratory experiment and a nationally representative survey. We show that the president can have a substantial effect on his own approval by priming the criteria on which citizens base their approval evaluations. Our results add a new dimension to the study of presidential approval, raise intriguing questions about accountability, and extend work on priming and public opinion by introducing the idea of image priming.