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Who Speaks for the People? The President, the Press, and Public Opinion in the United States


Bartholomew H. Sparrow is a professor of government at the University of Texas and the author of The Insular Cases and the Emergence of American Empire and Uncertain Guardians: The News Media as a Political Institution.


The U.S. president, the media, and public opinion survey data all represent the American public: the U.S. president serves as the personification and symbol of the U.S. government to the press and people alike; the news and opinion publicized in the media constitute the public sphere; and public opinion polls are accepted as indicators of the public's opinions and beliefs. This article uses both existing research findings and new data to unpack the relationship between the three institutions so as to determine under which conditions each institution speaks for the public and under which it dominates or is subordinate to the others.