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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Presidential Rhetoric and Congressional Support: A Case Study of the Impact of Presidential Rhetoric on Foreign Policy


This paper builds on the theory of The Rhetorical Presidency to examine how rhetoric has served as a vehicle for presidents to use their approval ratings and bipartisanship to win support from Congress. It contains a case study of the State of the Union Addresses of five presidents from 1960 to 2010 and looks specifically at their rhetoric on foreign affairs. Overall, although the findings support the literature that presidents can prime their approval ratings, they also suggest that the volume of rhetoric is not a key determinant of the success of such efforts. Additionally, the findings support the literature that bipartisan rhetoric is ineffective in promoting bipartisanship in the roll call votes by Congress and further suggests that it is equally ineffective in influencing other stages of the legislative process.

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