Presidential Influence and Environmental Policy

By Robert A. Shanley; Bernard K. Johnpoll | Go to book overview
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7
Conclusion

Advocates of a strong presidency maintain that the president as the only nationally elected leader and as chief executive with broad power derived from the Constitution is justified in directing the execution of the laws and supervising and coordinating the activities of the federal bureaucracy. These advocates perceive the buildup of the institutional presidency and deployment of a vigorous administrative presidency strategy as vehicles to harness the bureaucracy toward realizing objectives articulated in the presidential election.

However, difficulties can occur when presidents and their lieutenants act on the claim that they received a popular mandate to translate some of their specific proposals and their broader goals into government policy. The claim of a policy mandate rests on the presumption that national policy issues have been clearly debated by candidates and presented to the voters. However, even if issues are addressed, other factors such as candidates' previous records, their rhetoric and personalities, and the voters' party affiliations and socioeconomic backgrounds may play a significant role in the final electoral outcome. Moreover, the claim of a presidential mandate may not be confirmed by survey voting research and public opinion polls. For example, there was no evidence indicating a significant popular shift to the political right in the 1980 presidential election. President Reagan did not obtain a clear popular mandate for his conservative objectives; rather, there was an overwhelming rejection of President Carter given his inability to deal with economic and some foreign policy problems. 1 Public opinion polls indicated that Reagan could not claim a specific mandate for his New Federalism policy and for drastic reduction of funding and enforcement of environmental and health and safety regulations. 2 Survey

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