The expectations gap thesis: Public attitudes toward an incumbent president

Richard W. Waterman, Hank C. Jenkins-Smith, Carol L. Silva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


In a recent article, Kimball and Patterson (1997, 722) found that citizens appear to make a comparison between what they expect of their representatives in Congress and what they perceive congressional behavior to actually be like - what they call the "expectations-perceptions differential" and what presidential scholars call the "expectations gap." In this article, we replicate and expand Kimball and Patterson's study and relate it to the presidency. Through an analysis of survey data collected at the beginning and the end of the 1996 presidential election campaign, and by using four separate measures of the expectations gap, we demonstrate that public expectations exert a significant impact on evaluations of an incumbent president. They also have a direct impact on vote preference.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)944-966
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Politics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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