Staying Private

11 Pages Posted: 20 Nov 2013

Date Written: November 19, 2013


Modern presidents invest heavily in leading the public in the hope of leveraging public support to win backing in Congress. Nevertheless, there is overwhelming evidence that presidents rarely move the public in their direction. Presidents not only fail to create opportunities for change by going public but their efforts at persuading the public also may increase public polarization and thus decrease their chances of success in governing. In the absence of favorable party configurations in Congress, and lacking the ability to use public opinion to pressure legislators, presidents should consider an alternative strategy to going public. At the core of this strategy is quiet negotiations — the opposite of going public, what we may term “staying private.”

Keywords: president, Congress, polarization, public opinion, leadership, Obama, Clinton, Bush, going public, rhetoric

Suggested Citation

Edwards III, George C., Staying Private (November 19, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

George C. Edwards III (Contact Author)

Texas A&M University ( email )

Langford Building A
798 Ross St.
College Station, TX 77843-3137
United States

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