Searching for a Bright Line in the Trump Presidency

Carey, John M., Gretchen Helmke, Brendan Nyhan, Mitchell Sanders, Susan C. Stokes. 2019. "Searching for a Bright Line in the Trump Presidency." Perspectives on Politics. Forthcoming.

52 Pages Posted: 21 Mar 2018 Last revised: 11 Dec 2018

See all articles by John M. Carey

John M. Carey

Dartmouth College

Gretchen Helmke

University of Rochester

Brendan Nyhan

Dartmouth College

Mitchell Sanders

Meliora Research

Susan C. Stokes

Yale University

Date Written: December 7, 2018

Abstract

Is American democracy under threat? The question is more prominent in political debate now than at any time in recent memory. However, it is also too blunt; there is widespread recognition that democracy is multifaceted and that backsliding, when it occurs, tends to be piecemeal. To address these concerns, we provide original data from surveys of political science experts and the public measuring the perceived importance and performance of U.S. democracy on a number of dimensions during the first year and a half of the Trump presidency. We draw on a theory of how politicians may transgress limits on their authority and the conditions under which constraints are self-enforcing. We connect this theory to our survey data in an effort to identify potential areas of agreement – bright lines – among experts and the public about the most important democratic principles and whether they have been violated. Public and expert perceptions often differ on the importance of specific democratic principles. In addition, though our experts perceive substantial democratic erosion, particularly in areas related to checks and balances, polarization between Trump supporters and opponents undermines any social consensus recognizing these violations.

Keywords: Democracy, populism, polarization, rule of law, public opinion, Trump

Suggested Citation

Carey, John Michael and Helmke, Gretchen and Nyhan, Brendan and Sanders, Mitchell and Stokes, Susan C., Searching for a Bright Line in the Trump Presidency (December 7, 2018). Carey, John M., Gretchen Helmke, Brendan Nyhan, Mitchell Sanders, Susan C. Stokes. 2019. "Searching for a Bright Line in the Trump Presidency." Perspectives on Politics. Forthcoming.. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3142310 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3142310

John Michael Carey (Contact Author)

Dartmouth College ( email )

Hanover, NH 03755
United States
603 646 1130 (Phone)
603 646 2154 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~jcarey

Gretchen Helmke

University of Rochester ( email )

300 Crittenden Blvd.
Rochester, NY 14627
United States

Brendan Nyhan

Dartmouth College ( email )

Hanover, NH 03755
United States

Mitchell Sanders

Meliora Research ( email )

Brighton, NY
United States

Susan C. Stokes

Yale University

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