The American public expresses considerable consensus on those qualities of character and performance indispensable to a modern president. Contrary to expectations, however, such conceptions of an ideal president (or presidential prototypes) generally failed to provide standards by which actual presidential candidates were evaluated. Across five complementary tests, qualities that citizens thought important for an ideal president counted no more heavily in their evaluations of presidential hopefuls than did qualities thought less important-with one consistent and striking exception. Conceptions of an ideal president did set the standards by which the incumbent president was evaluated, and quite powerfully so. In the final section of the paper, we provide several interpretations of these results, suggest how public conceptions of an ideal president are acquired, and speculate about processes of presidential appraisal.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science