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Unilateral Powers, Public Opinion, and the Presidency | Andrew Reeves

Unilateral Powers, Public Opinion, and the Presidency


This article explores mass attitudes toward unilateral presidential power. We argue that mass attitudes toward presi- dential power reflect evaluations of the current president as well as more fundamental conceptions about the nature of the office, which are rooted in beliefs about the rule of law. In four nationally representative surveys, we find low levels of support for unilateral powers, that these attitudes are stable over time, and that they are structured both by pres- idential approval and beliefs in the rule of law. In a fifth survey, we show that political context conditions support for unilateral power, and in a sixth we show that these attitudes are consequential for policy evaluation. Even during the Obama presidency, when presidential power is highly politicized, voters distinguish the president from the presidency. Our results have important implications for public opinion’s role in constraining the use of presidential power.

Journal of Politics