Presidential approval and the mixed blessing of divided government

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Date: Aug. 2002
From: The Journal of Politics(Vol. 64, Issue 3)
Publisher: Wiley Subscription Services, Inc.
Document Type: Abstract
Length: 158 words

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Abstract :

Divided government provides ambiguous and conflicting information about which branch of government to hold accountable for government performance. The implication for presidents, who are easy targets of blame, is that they are less likely to be held accountable for government's failures during periods of divided government because the public has a plausible alternative for affixing responsibility: the U.S. Congress. Because presidents are punished more heavily for negative outcomes than they are rewarded for favorable ones, we argue that a divided government context has the effect of increasing presidential approval relative to periods of unified government. At the individual level, using data from the 1972-1994 National Election Studies we show that divided government increases the probability that respondents approve of a president's job performance. This effect is even stronger among citizens who are knowledgeable about control of government. Examining approval at the aggregate level from 1949 to 1996, we find further evidence that divided government boosts presidential approval ratings.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A90097791