Political Science The US Presidency
George C. Edwards
  • LAST REVIEWED: 02 April 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 July 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0065


Perhaps no other government official commands the attention, stirs the imagination, and generates the emotions as the American president. The American presidency is a diverse field of study. Scholars seeking to understand the institution and its occupants adopt a wide range of approaches, including legal, institutional, power, and psychological. Their methods include quantitative analysis, documentary and interview-based research, formal modeling, and, of course, the techniques of the historian. The focus in this article is on the primary relationships and responsibilities of the office, including dealing with the public and the media, making decisions, influencing Congress, populating the federal judiciary, and implementing policy. Relationships are stressed because we want to explain why presidents and their aides and other appointees act as they do and why these actions have the consequences they have.

General Overviews

Two volumes provide overviews of the literature on the presidency and methods and approaches for studying it. Edwards, et al. 1993 has four chapters on assessing research on presidential selection, presidential personality and leadership style, advising the president, and presidential policymaking. It also contains chapters on approaches to studying the presidency, including leadership, cognitive theory, organizational theory, formal theory, institutional theory, and quantitative analysis. Finally, it includes work on viewing the presidency from a comparative perspective and on evaluating presidents. Edwards and Howell 2009 has more recent analyses of quantitative, game theoretic, and historical institutionalism approaches to studying the presidency. It then includes chapters on precursors to governance such as presidential transitions and agenda setting. Numerous chapters focus on presidential relations with the public, Congress, courts, and the executive branch. Sets of chapters are also included on unilateral action, decision making, and international politics. The volume ends with reflections on studying the presidency by four senior scholars.

  • Edwards, George C., III, and William G. Howell, eds. The Oxford Handbook of the American Presidency. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199238859.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This volume represents the most extensive treatment of research on the American presidency. Nearly three dozen chapters authored by leading scholars critically assess the major contributions to the literature, identify weaknesses in this work, and suggest productive lines of future inquiry.

  • Edwards, George C., III, John H. Kessel, and Bert A. Rockman, eds. Researching the Presidency: Vital Questions, New Approaches. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1993.

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    This collection includes contributions from both presidency scholars and specialists in cognitive psychology, formal theory, organization theory, leadership theory, institutionalism, and methodology. The former group assesses the state of the literature on the presidency while the latter applies their expertise in an effort to generate innovative approaches to presidential research.

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