Presidential Leverage and the Politics of Policy Formulation


  • AUTHOR'S NOTE: My deepest thanks to Andy Rudalevige for access to his data and for continued support of this project. I also thank Julia Azari, Lara Brown, Matt Eshbaugh-Soha, Doug Lemke, and Jakana Thomas, as well as the three anonymous reviewers, for timely and insightful comments, questions, and challenges. Michael Means provided excellent research assistance.

Daniel E. Ponder is a professor of political science at Drury University. He specializes in American politics and institutions, and he is the author of Good Advice: Information and Policy Making in the White House.


This article applies a concept of “presidential leverage” to the inner workings of the White House, specifically decisions regarding the location of policy formulation. The guiding question addresses how a president's leverage in the political system influences decisions regarding policy making. Findings support the propositions that (1) leverage has a systematic impact on presidential policy formation, (2) divided government has little or no impact on policy making location, and (3) presidents who are ideologically compatible with Congress are less likely to centralize. I conclude with some general thoughts on the current state of presidential leverage.