Explaining presidential responsiveness to the public is important to understanding democratic representation in the United States. To explain presidential responsiveness, this study begins by assuming that presidents are rational and politically knowledgeable. Based on these simple assumptions, this study argues that presidents do consider the consequences of their past behavior when responding to the public. In particular, presidents tend to respond to public opinion changes, when the public rewards their responsive behavior and punishes their irresponsive behavior. To examine these arguments, this study analyzes presidential popularity and responsiveness to the public at the aggregate level from 1958 through 2004. Regression results show that presidential responsiveness tends to increase after presidential popularity decreased as a result of irresponsive presidential behavior. The results thus partially support the argument.
©2012 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/Boston