Presidential Agenda-Setting on the Economy during the “Great Recession”

Jeffrey S. Peake

Abstract


Presidents are often identified as the most significant agenda-setter in the policy making process. However, agenda-setting theory indicates significant limitations to presidential leadership, particularly under certain policy contexts. In order to assess the presidency’s capacity to lead the systemic agenda in the context of an economic downturn, I analyze President Obama’s public relations efforts on the economy from January 2009 through May 2012. Specifically, I track the amount of attention given the economy in Obama’s public speeches and remarks and assess the degree to which they impacted or responded to media coverage of the economy and public concern for and confidence in the economy at both a weekly and monthly level. The findings suggest that the president’s attention to the economy was largely responsive to shifts in media attention and public opinion on the economy. This was especially the case with regard to the president’s attention to jobs and unemployment. However, Obama’s public leadership efforts on the topics of debt and spending directly impacted media coverage and indirectly affected public opinion on the economy.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15763/issn.2374-779X.2017.36.1.75-100

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