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Journal Article

Leadership and Pandering: A Theory of Executive Policymaking

Brandice Canes-Wrone, Michael C. Herron and Kenneth W. Shotts
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 45, No. 3 (Jul., 2001), pp. 532-550
DOI: 10.2307/2669237
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2669237
Page Count: 19
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Leadership and Pandering: A Theory of Executive Policymaking
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Abstract

We develop an informational theory that analyzes conditions under which a reelection-seeking executive will act in the public interest. The theory considers factors such as executive competence, challenger quality, and the likelihood that voters will learn the consequences of policy decisions before an upcoming election. We find that an executive who has information suggesting that a popular policy is contrary to voters' interests may or may not pander to voters by choosing it; under certain conditions, the executive can actually increase his probability of reelection by choosing an unpopular policy that is in the public interest. However, we also show that an executive will sometimes face electoral incentives to enact a policy that is both unpopular and contrary to voters' interests. Our theory is illustrated with examples involving President Abraham Lincoln, California Governor Earl Warren, and President Gerald Ford.

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