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How Much Can Leaders Shape or Lead Mass Opinion?


Published June 6, 2023

Leaders can’t shift the view of “doorstep” issues— what is relevant to a voter’s day-to-day experience—but they can shift the saliency of these issues. Unpopular presidents obviously can reduce support for domestic policy, but even popular presidents have a difficult time shifting public opinion.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What do you think is the driver of political party polarization?
  2. If you could change the US political system, how would you change it and why?

Additional Resources:

  • Read Brandice Canes-Wrone’s book Who Leads Whom? Available here.
  • Listen to “Grading Election Integrity” with Benjamin Ginsberg and Bill Whalen on Saints, Sinners & Salvageables. Available here.
  • Watch “Why Do Some Democracies Survive While Others Fail?” on PolicyEd. Available here.