Testing the Permanence of the Permanent Campaign: An Analysis of Presidential Polling Expenditures, 1977–2002
Posted: 18 Aug 2009
Many presidential observers argue that the modern White House is the site of more-or-less permanent campaigning. In a recent POQ piece, Murray and Howard (2002) [Public Opinion Quarterly 66:527–558] explore one indicator of the “permanent campaign,” the extent to which Presidents Carter, Reagan, G.H.W. Bush, and Clinton commissioned independent opinion polls and focus groups to assist in policymaking and political maneuvering. Murray and Howard suggest that while a sophisticated polling operation has been institutionalized in the White House, there is substantial variation in how much a president uses this operation. In this article, we model presidential polling expenditures over time using monthly figures. We find that presidents do not vary significantly in the average amount spent per month on polls. There are, however, two recurring patterns of variation within presidential administrations: Presidents tend to spend significantly more on internal polling during the most intense months of a presidential reelection campaign; and polling expenditures increase over the course of each presidential term. These findings suggest that there are common forces (e.g., elections, natural decline in support) that have driven all presidents since Ford to poll.
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