Skip to main content Accessibility help

Expert Opinion, Agency Characteristics, and Agency Preferences

  • Joshua D. Clinton (a1) and David E. Lewis (a2)


The study of bureaucracies and their relationship to political actors is central to understanding the policy process in the United States. Studying this aspect of American politics is difficult because theories of agency behavior, effectiveness, and control often require measures of administrative agencies' policy preferences, and appropriate measures are hard to find for a broad spectrum of agencies. We propose a method for measuring agency preferences based upon an expert survey of agency preferences for 82 executive agencies in existence between 1988 and 2005. We use a multirater item response model to provide a principled structure for combining subjective ratings based on scholarly and journalistic expertise with objective data on agency characteristics. We compare the resulting agency preference estimates and standard errors to existing alternative measures, discussing both the advantages and limitations of the method.


Corresponding author

e-mail: (corresponding author)


Hide All

Authors' note: We thank Tom Hammond, George Krause, and Joshua Tucker for helpful comments. We are grateful to Simon Jackman and Shawn Treier for generously providing their code and our survey respondents for their time and expertise.



Hide All
Aberbach, Joel D., and Rockman, Bert A. 2000. In the web of politics: Three decades of the U.S. Federal Executive. Washington, DC: Brookings.
Bafumi, Joseph, Gelman, Andrew, Park, David, and Kaplan, Noah. 2005. Practical issues in implementing and understanding Bayesian ideal point estimation. Political Analysis 13(2): 171–87.
Bertelli, Anthony M., and Grose, Christian R. 2006. Secretaries of Pork? Executive ideology, multiple bureaucratic principals, and distributive public policy. Unpublished manuscript, University of Georgia.
Canes-Wrone, Brandice. 2003. Bureaucratic decisions and the composition of the lower courts. American Journal of Political Science 47(2): 205–14.
Cohen, Jeffrey E. 1986. The dynamics of the “Revolving Door” on the FCC. American Journal of Political Science 30(4): 689708.
Clinton, Joshua D., and Lapinski, John S. 2006. Measuring legislative accomplishment, 1877-1994. American Journal of Political Science 50(1): 232–49.
Clinton, Joshua D., Jackman, Simon, and Rivers, Douglas. 2004. The statistical analysis of legislative behavior: A unified approach. American Political Science Review 98(2): 355–70.
Epstein, David, and O'Halloran, Sharyn. 1999. Delegating powers. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Gilmour, John B., and Lewis, David E. 2006a. Political appointees and the competence of Federal Program Management. American Politics Research 34(1): 2250.
Gilmour, John B., and Lewis, David E. 2006b. Assessing performance assessment for budgeting: The influence of politics, performance, and program size in FY2005. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 16 (2): 169–86.
Hillygus, D. Sunshine, and Treier, Shawn. 2006. The contours of policy attitudes in the mass public. Unpublished manuscript, Harvard University.
Huber, John D., and Shipan, Charles R. 2002. Deliberate discretion? New York: Cambridge University Press.
Jackman, Simon. 2004. “What do we learn from Graduate Admissions Committees? A multiple-rater, latent variable model with incomplete discrete and continuous indicators. Political Analysis 12(4): 400–24.
Jackman, Simon, and Treier, Shawn. 2006. Democracy as a latent variable. Unpublished manuscript, Stanford University.
Johnson, Valen E., and Albert, James H. 1999. Ordinal data modeling. New York: Springer.
Lewis, David E. Forthcoming. Politicizing administration. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Martin, Andrew D., and Quinn, Kevin M. 2002. Dynamic ideal point estimation via Markov chain Monte Carlo for the U.S. Supreme Court, 1953-1999. Political Analysis 10(2): 134–53.
McCarty, Nolan M. 2004. The appointments dilemma. American Journal of Political Science 48(3): 413–28.
McCubbins, Mathew D., Noll, Roger, and Weingast, Barry. 1987. Administrative procedures as instruments of political control. Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization 3: 243–77.
McCubbins, Mathew D., Noll, Roger, and Weingast, Barry. 1989. Structure and process, politics and policy: Administrative arrangements and the political control of agencies. Virginia Law Review 75(2): 431–82.
Moe, Terry M. 1985a. Control and feedback in economic regulation: The case of the NLRB. American Political Science Review 79(4): 1094–116.
Moe, Terry M. 1985b. The politicized presidency. In The new direction in American politics, eds. Chubb, J. E. and Peterson, P. E., 235–71. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.
Moe, Terry M. 1989. The politics of bureaucratic structure. In Can the government govern? eds. Chubb, J. E. and Peterson, P. E., 267329. Washington, DC: Brookings.
Nixon, David C. 2004. Separation of powers and appointee ideology. Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization 20(2): 438–57.
Poole, Keith T., and Rosenthal, Howard. 1997. Congress: A political-economic history of roll call voting. New York: Oxford University Press.
Poole, Keith T. 2005. Spatial Models of Parliamentary Voting. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Rudalevige, Andrew. 2002. Managing the president's program: Centralization and Legislative Policy Formulation, 1949-1996. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Quinn, Kevin M. 2004. Bayesian factor analysis for mixed ordinal and continuous responses. Political Analysis 12(4): 338–53.
Snyder, Susan K., and Weingast, Barry R. 2000. The American system of shared powers: the President, Congress, and the NLRB. Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization 16(2): 269305.
Voeten, Erik. 2000. Clashes in the assembly. International Organization 54(2): 185217.
Weingast, Barry W., and Moran, Mark J. 1983. Bureaucratic discretion or congressional control? Regulatory policymaking by the Federal Trade Commission. Journal of Political Economy 91(5): 765800.
MathJax is a JavaScript display engine for mathematics. For more information see

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Expert Opinion, Agency Characteristics, and Agency Preferences

  • Joshua D. Clinton (a1) and David E. Lewis (a2)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.