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Presidential Leverage: Presidents, Approval, and the American State, Daniel E. Ponder

Reviewed by Meena Bose



The opportunities that public approval may bring for presidential leadership present an enduring question in presidential studies and American politics. Intuitively, high public support would appear to help presidents enact policy priorities. Classic analyses of executive leadership, such as Richard E. Neustadt's Presidential Power (1960), discuss the importance of public prestige, while more recent studies, such as George C. Edward III's On Deaf Ears: The Limits of the Bully Pulpit (2003), Diane J. Heith's Polling to Govern (2004), and Brandice Canes-Wrone's Who Leads Whom? Presidents, Policy, and the Public (2006), question how much presidents can direct public opinion and whether high public approval advances presidential policymaking. Daniel E. Ponder's study of presidential leverage deepens scholarly understanding of how public approval influences presidential policymaking by examining how presidential popularity combines with public trust in government more broadly to create broad or narrow windows of opportunity for executive action.

Ponder's index of presidential leverage (IPL) divides presidential approval by public trust in government to create a figure that ranges since the regular measurement of both variables from about .62 (in early 1974, which became the last year of the Richard M. Nixon

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