Get access

The Political Fallout of Taking a Stand: The President, Congress, and the Schiavo Case


Donald P. Haider-Markel is an associate professor of political science and director of the Survey Research Center at the University of Kansas. His research is focused on public policy, public opinion, and political participation.

Carol K. Carr is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of Kansas. Her research interests include political institutions, representation, and public opinion.


Federal government involvement in the case of terminally ill Terri Schiavo provides an interesting opportunity to explore the potential impact of specific institutional actions on public approval of those institutions. We analyze national survey data from the period of federal intervention and a poll conducted several months later. Our analyses, which account for time and exposure to political news, suggest that presidential and congressional actions in the case were associated with a decline in approval for the president and congressional leaders. Thus, the president and Congress can pay a political price when they take high-profile actions a significant majority of the public opposes.