High-profile presidential addresses simply fail to influence public opinion.FDR gave a bunch of speeches and fireside chats in 1939-1941 arguing for American involvement in World War II, but they had almost no effect. Then the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and suddenly everyone wanted war. Everything Roosevelt said turned out to be true – the US was eventually forced into the war, we did eventually have to spend a huge amount of money and create an enormous military, it would have been better if we had done more to get ready sooner – but nobody wanted to hear it until the bombs started falling on Hawaii.
. . . a string of Oval Office addressed by Ronald Reagan failed to move the needle on voters’ view of providing aid to the Contras in Nicaragua, George W. Bush’s congressional address on behalf of comprehensive immigration reform left opinion flat, and George H.W. Bush’s speech defending his bipartisan congressional budget deal did nothing to change views.
Indeed, the general tendency is for public opinion to move in the opposite direction from the president’s preferences — a regulatory model that’s known as the thermostatic model of public opinion.
Reagan was an influential president because public opinion became very conservative in the late 1970s, leading to election results in 1980 that allowed him to govern effectively while the strong economic rebound in 1983-’84 helped him secure a landslide reelection bid. But according to Edwards, “surveys of public opinion have found that support for regulatory programs and spending on health care, welfare, urban problems, education, environmental protection and aid to minorities increased rather than decreased during Reagan’s tenure,” while support for higher military spending fell.
The longer he stayed in office, in other words, the less the public worried that liberals were out of control and the more they worried that traditional liberal priorities were being neglected.
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Persuasion is Hard
Trump's speech on the border wall had no effect on opinion polls. Which is as you would expect, since all the evidence suggests that presidential speeches never have any effect on what people believe. Matt Yglesias: