Stimson's data suggest that Reagan's election was a reflection, rather than a cause, of growing anti-government sentiment. Once Reagan took office and began to enact his agenda to reduce the size and scope of government, however, public demand for government actually grew, reflecting the thermostatic pattern Stimson documents. In other words, rather than decreasing demand for big government, Reagan's presidency actually increased it.Nyhan's main lesson for Obama seems to be: stop suggesting that you plan to move public opinion from the bully pulpit, because Reagan was not able to do it once he was in office. I would add, without falling into an assumption that history will mechanically repeat itself, that the Reagan pattern suggests that Obama may have already not "changed the trajectory" of American politics, but ridden the change induced by George W. Bush's massive failures to effect about as much legislative change as the electorate will tolerate at one gulp.
Sunday Open Thread
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