Presidential Influence in an Era of Congressional Dominance

Jon Rogowskiby Jon C. Rogowski, Washington University in St. Louis

Abstract: “Research on presidential power focuses almost exclusively on the modern era, while earlier presidents are said to have held office while congressional dominance was at its peak. In this article, I argue that nineteenth-century presidents wielded greater influence than commonly recognized due to their position as head of the executive branch. Using an original dataset on the county-level distribution of U.S. post offices from 1876 to 1896, I find consistent evidence that counties represented by a president’s copartisans in the U.S. House received substantially more post offices than other counties, and that these advantages were especially large under divided government and in electorally important states. These results are robust across model specifications and when examining the Senate. The findings challenge key components of the congressional dominance and modern presidency theses, and have important implications for scholarship on interbranch relations, bureaucratic politics, and American political development.”

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American Political Science Review is political science’s premier scholarly research journal, providing peer-reviewed articles and review essays from subfields throughout the discipline. Areas covered include political theory, American politics, public policy, public administration, comparative politics, and international relations. APSR has published continuously since 1906.