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Partisan Context and Procedural Values: Attitudes Towards Presidential Secrecy Before and after the 2016 US Election

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 August 2020

Daniel Berliner*
Department of Political Science and Public Policy, London School of Economics


What shapes attitudes towards procedural rules that constrain executive power? This letter argues that procedural values are contextual: A function of who is in power. Supporters of those in power prefer fewer procedural constraints, while opposition supporters prefer greater. This study reports the results of a unique test using data from the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Survey. Respondents were asked, in both pre- and post-election waves, if they thought it should be ‘easier or harder for the president to keep documents secret from the public’. The panel design makes it possible to track individual changes following the shift in political context. The results show evidence of a partisan ‘flip’ in attitudes following the election, with Republicans becoming less likely – and Democrats more likely – to prefer additional constraints on presidential secrecy. However, this partisan ‘flip’ is present only among higher political knowledge respondents.

Copyright © The Author(s) 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press

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