Dividers, not uniters: Presidential leadership and senate partisanship, 1981-2004

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43 Scopus citations


This article argues that presidential leadership tends to exacerbate partisan disagreement in Congress on the issues the president champions. The argument starts from the president's role as highly visible party leader. Because of this role, members of Congress of both parties have a collective political stake in the disposition of presidential initiatives: members of the president's party tend to benefit politically from presidential successes, while members of the opposing party receive few political benefits and may suffer costs. These political incentives are likely to drive the parties in Congress farther apart on presidential initiatives than they would be in the absence of presidential leadership. To test for these effects, this paper controls for variation in issue content and isolates for separate analysis votes involving ideologically divisive issues. Analysis reveals that the parties are systematically farther apart on presidential agenda items, controlling for issue content and other factors affecting voting partisanship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)914-928
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Politics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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