Cover of Polling to Govern by Diane J. Heith
Polling to Govern
Public Opinion and Presidential Leadership
Diane J. Heith


216 pages.
from $22.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9780804748483
Paperback ISBN: 9780804748490


Excerpts and More

Presidents spend millions of dollars on public opinion polling while in office. Critics often point to this polling as evidence that a “permanent campaign” has taken over the White House at the expense of traditional governance. But has presidential polling truly changed the shape of presidential leadership?

Diane J. Heith examines the polling practices of six presidential administrations—those of Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton—dissecting the poll apparatus of each period. She contends that while White House polls significantly influence presidential messages and responses to events, they do not impact presidential decisions to the extent that observers often claim. Heith concludes that polling, and thus the campaign environment, exists in tandem with long-established governing strategies.

About the author

Diane J. Heith is Assistant Professor of Government and Politics at St. John's University.

"Polling to Govern is a thoughtful, detailed, and significant analysis of how six U.S. presidents from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton used public opinion polls to develop presidential leadership."

Perspectives on Political Science

"A thoughtful, thorough analysis of White House polling operations and the data obtained from those polls."


"Employing superb historical instincts and considerable research skills, [Heith] has produced a nuanced evaluation of 'the permanent campaign,' the seemingly constant presidential search for high approval ratings."

Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"[Polling to Govern] offers lots of interesting findings and insights. Students of the presidency will surely profit from reading [it]."

—Presidential Studies Quarterly