John Lovett, Shaun Bevan, Frank R. Baumgartner
Popular Presidents Can Affect Congressional Attention, for a Little While

Policy Studies Journal, 2015: 43, issue 1, pp. 22-43
ISSN: 1541-0072 (online)

Does the president have the ability to set the congressional agenda? Agenda setting is a prerequisite for influence, so this is an important element in understanding presidential–legislative relations. We focus on the State of the Union address and show that popular presidents can, indeed, cause Congress to shift attention to those topics most emphasized. The impact is tempered by divided government and time, however. No matter the state of divided government, however, popular presidents can direct congressional attention, at least for a little while. Unpopular presidents, by contrast, are irrelevant.