Presidential Appointments and Policy Priorities

Forthcoming, Social Science Quarterly

36 Pages Posted: 18 Dec 2014 Last revised: 9 Mar 2016

See all articles by Gary Hollibaugh

Gary Hollibaugh

University of Notre Dame - Department of Political Science

Date Written: March 8, 2016


Previous studies of presidential appointments have consistently found that presidents place their most competent appointees into agencies responsible for policy issues high on their agendas. Using a survey with an embedded experimental manipulation, we examine whether members of the public, when given the backgrounds of fictional presidential appointees, are able to infer the president's policy priorities based on the perceived competence of the appointees. Results suggest that perceived policy importance is positively associated with perceptions of competence, and negatively associated with perceptions of favoritism or patronage - characterized here as the nomination of campaign fundraisers. Moreover, these same factors are associated with increased levels of support for the President's policy positions in the policy areas for which the nominees are responsible. Notably, perceived nominee ideology has no perceptible effect on policy support or perceived policy importance.

Keywords: presidential appointments, experiments

JEL Classification: D7, D72, C99

Suggested Citation

Hollibaugh, Gary, Presidential Appointments and Policy Priorities (March 8, 2016). Forthcoming, Social Science Quarterly. Available at SSRN: or

Gary Hollibaugh (Contact Author)

University of Notre Dame - Department of Political Science ( email )

2060 Jenkins Nanovic Halls
Notre Dame, IN 46556
United States


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