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Presidential Mandates

How Elections Shape the National Agenda

Presidents have claimed popular mandates for more than 150 years. How can they make such claims when surveys show that voters are uninformed about the issues? In this groundbreaking book, Patricia Conley argues that mandates are not mere statements of fact about the preferences of voters. By examining election outcomes from the politicians’ viewpoint, Conley uncovers the inferences and strategies—the politics—that translate those outcomes into the national policy agenda.

Presidents claim mandates, Conley shows, only when they can mobilize voters and members of Congress to make a major policy change: the margin of victory, the voting behavior of specific groups, and the composition of Congress all affect their decisions. Using data on elections since 1828 and case studies from Truman to Clinton, she demonstrates that it is possible to accurately predict which presidents will ask for major policy changes at the start of their term. Ultimately, she provides a new understanding of the concept of mandates by changing how we think about the relationship between elections and policy-making.

184 pages | 8 line drawings, 7 tables | 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 | © 2001

American Politics and Political Economy Series

Political Science: American Government and Politics

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. Rethinking Presidential Mandates
2. Elections and Presidential Agenda Setting
3. Political Interference
4. Presidential Mandates since 1828
5. Popular Mandates: 1952, 1964, and 1980
6. Bargained Mandates: 1948 and 1992
7. Victories but Not Mandates: 1960, 1976, and 1988
8. Conclusion

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