AUTHORS' NOTE: We thank Greg McAvoy, Steve Nicholson, and Gary Segura for providing their data. All errors are ours.
Polls and Elections: Divided Government and Foreign Relations Approval
Article first published online: 17 MAR 2011
© 2011 Center for the Study of the Presidency
Presidential Studies Quarterly
Volume 41, Issue 2, pages 375–392, June 2011
How to Cite
NEWMAN, B. and LAMMERT, K. (2011), Polls and Elections: Divided Government and Foreign Relations Approval. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 41: 375–392. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-5705.2011.03859.x
- Issue published online: 17 MAR 2011
- Article first published online: 17 MAR 2011
During divided government, the public tends to attribute credit and blame for economic conditions to both the president and Congress. However, the “two presidencies” thesis argues that presidents have more influence vis-à-vis Congress in shaping foreign policy compared to domestic policy, so the public may attribute all foreign policy outcomes to the president alone. This suggests that the boost presidents typically receive in their overall approval during divided government due to sharing the blame for negative economic conditions will not extend to their foreign relations approval numbers. We find that presidents do enjoy higher overall approval during divided government. However, contrary to the two presidencies thesis, presidents also enjoy higher foreign relations approval during divided government. We explore four potential explanations for this puzzle and point to future research questions the puzzle raises.