Presidential Ranking Factors Involved In Rating Presidential Approval.

2527 words - 10 pages

What are the main criteria for rating presidents?More than any other political figure, the President of the United States ofAmerica attracts the scrutiny and passion of the American people. As theirelected Head of State, he represents the presence of the masses, and is seen asthe figurehead of the nation in times of national crisis and grief. The last fewdecades have seen a public disillusionment with the democratic process inAmerican politics, and, as a consequence, the electorate look to a strongpresident to support their interests against those in power whom they do nottrust. During his term in office, the president is continuously examined withinthe minds of the masses, most acutely through the various limbs of the media.All presidents begin their terms, having just been voted in by the majority ofthe populace, with broad public support. Evidence shows however that thissupport, or `popularity rating' wanes over time, peaking only after military orother dramatic action. Political scientists have long considered this aspect ofthe presidency a valid one for further study, and have designed severalmechanisms for the classification of presidents. These theories help to explainexactly what makes a president `good' or `bad', and it is these that I will tryto define and explore in order to answer the question given.Perhaps the greatest contributor to presidential studies, at least on thespecifics of success analysis, James Barber, puts forward a binary matrixinvolving two baselines. The first, activity-passivity, places the presidentsaccording to the amount of energy invested in day-to-day activities. For examplethe notoriously hard-working Lyndon Johnson, who slept as little as possible inorder to have more time to work, features far higher on this scale than thelethargic Calvin Coolidge, who often needed an afternoon nap despite an elevenhour nightly sleep. The second baseline is positive-negative effect. Thisdefines the actual attitudes of the men towards their office, whether theyactively enjoyed their political life, and whether they believed their positionwas a privileged one, not a grim yet essential task. These two characteristicsare an attempt to commodify a president's success, or lack of, and henceunderstand their subsequent `rating' among both the public and politicalscientists. Barber describes the four extremes of this model as follows:Active-positive: There is a congruence, a consistency, between much activity andthe enjoyment of it, indicating relatively high self-esteem and relative successin relating to the environment.Active-negative: The contradiction here is between relatively intense effort andrelatively low emotional reward for that effort. He seems ambitious, strivingupward... [yet] his stance toward the environment is aggressive and he has apersistent problem in managing his aggressive feelings.Passive-positive: The contradiction is between low self-esteem and a superficialoptimism. A hopeful attitude helps dispel doubt and...

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