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The President's Effect on Partisan Attitudes


  • For analyses of these three elections, see Jacobson (2007, 2009b, 2011); a review of the effects of presidential candidates and presidents on congressional elections may be found in Jacobson (2013a, chap. 6); examples from the large literature on the president's electoral influence include Abramowitz (1985); Abramowitz and Segal (1986); Campbell (1993); Hibbs, Rivers, and Vasilatos (1982); Oppenheimer, Stimson, and Waterman (1986); Rudalevige (2001); Tufte (1975, 1978); for something of a dissenting view, see Erikson (1990).


The link between the president's job approval ratings and aggregate election outcomes is well established, but the processes forging the connection have received comparatively little attention. A variety of data from diverse sources across multiple administrations indicates that popular assessments of the president strongly affect how his party is evaluated, perceived, and adopted as an object of identification, which, in turn, helps to account for the president's influence on the electoral fates of his party's candidates. The data also suggest that opinions of Barack Obama have so far had an even larger effect on attitudes toward the president's party than did opinions of his predecessors, including G. W. Bush.