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Public Expectations and the Presidency: Barber's "Climate of Expectations" Examined

Eric B. Herzik and Mary L. Dodson
Presidential Studies Quarterly
Vol. 12, No. 4, Perceptions of the Presidency, Leadership and Statesmanship (Fall, 1982), pp. 485-490
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27547862
Page Count: 6
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Public Expectations and the Presidency: Barber's "Climate of Expectations" Examined
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Abstract

The relationship between the president and the public's expectations of his roles and responsibilities is a relatively unexplored topic in the presidential studies literature. While others have studied various aspects of public opinion and the presidency, James David Barber's "climate of expectations" is the only theoretical treatment of the linkage between public expectations and the presidency. As presented in The Presidential Character, Barber's concept of "climate of expectations" is relatively undefined and its implications largely undocumented. Three primary components of the climate of expectations are (1) the implied consensus of public expectations; (2) the change of this consensus over time; and (3) the causality of action that has president's responding to the given climate. Our analysis specifically addresses the first two of these concerns and gives a fuller understanding of the relationship between public and president. We find that a consensus does exist concerning public expectations of the president — a consensus focused around general traits of personality, leadership, and individual virtue. The more programmatic consensus that Barber posits was never uncovered by our analysis, although particular methodological problems addressed in the text do not necessarily preclude its existence. In addition, the change over time of the consensus of expectations surrounding the presidency was never found. Constancy rather than change is the most striking characteristic of the public's expectation of their chief executive.

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