November 12, 2005
“Saving a President: Public Opinion and Impeachment” is the
topic Associate Professor of Government and Politics Diane J. Heith
will address as part of a panel on Saturday, November 12 at 3:45
p.m., at Hofstra University’s Conference on the Clinton Presidency.
Professor Heith will speak about the influence public opinion had
on the Senate’s refusal to remove President Clinton from office.
“Members of the Senate felt they couldn’t remove him because of his
high public approval rating,” she says.
Professor Heith should know. Her article, “Polling for a
Defense: The White House Public Opinion Apparatus and the Clinton
Impeachment” about President Clinton’s skillful use of public
opinion polls to develop his impeachment defense strategy, must
have caught the eye of Hofstra University’s Presidential Conference
committee members, she believes, as she was invited to speak at the
upcoming conference on the Clinton Presidency. Former President
Clinton as well as 140 scholars, journalists and former government
officials from the Clinton Administration will address the
three-day conference. (Professor Heith’s article was published in
the Presidential Studies Quarterly 30, no. 4, in 2000.)
“Presidential Advisor Dick Morris polled the public the day
before the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke,” says Professor Heith.
“He learned that the public would accept that the President lied to
his wife about a personal matter, but not if he lied about anything
else. President Clinton successfully used what he knew about public
opinion in formulating his response when the scandal broke, and
during the investigation which led to his impeachment.” In
researching this topic, Professor Heith studied the text of nightly
newscasts on the three major TV broadcast networks during the
scandal. “There were 249 stories during 1998 that mentioned public
opinion,” she says.
Professor Heith has been a Professor of Government
and Politics at St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
since 1998. A specialist in American institutions, she is the
author of a book, Polling to Govern: Public Opinion and
Presidential Leadership, Stanford University Press, 2004, and the
co-editor with Lori Cox Han of a book on President George W. Bush
and public opinion entitled, In the Public Domain: Presidents and
the Challenge of Public Leadership, State University of New York
Press, SUNY Series on the Presidency: Contemporary Issues,
Recently, she presented a paper, “Reaching Women: Soft Media in
the 2004 Presidential Election Cycle,” at the Annual Meeting of the
American Political Science Association in Washington, D.C. She is a
board member of the Association’s Presidency Section, the Books and
Articles section editor of its PRG Newsletter, and a reviewer for
six professional journals.
At St. John’s, Professor Heith has been the recipient of
numerous faculty recognition awards, and serves on several
university committees. She has also been a mentor in the Intel
Science Program since 2001.