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David Lewis - Vanderbilt University. Nashville, TN, US

David Lewis

William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Political Science | Vanderbilt University


Expert in federal bureaucracy, including agency performance, agency oversight and the political appointment process.



David Lewis Publication David Lewis Publication



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Lewis' research interests include the presidency, executive branch politics and public administration. He is the author of two books, Presidents and the Politics of Agency Design (Stanford University Press, 2003) and The Politics of Presidential Appointments: Political Control and Bureaucratic Performance (Princeton University Press, 2008). He has also published numerous articles on American politics, public administration, and management in journals such as the American Journal of Political Science, the Journal of Politics, the British Journal of Political Science, Public Administration Review, and Presidential Studies Quarterly. His work has been featured in outlets such as the Harvard Business Review, New York Times, and Washington Post. He is a member of the National Academy of Public Administration and has earned numerous research and teaching awards, including the Herbert Simon Award for contributions to the scientific study of the bureaucracy and the Madison Sarratt, Jeffrey Nordhaus, and Robert Birkby awards for excellence in undergraduate teaching.

Before joining Vanderbilt’s Department of Political Science, he was an assistant professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton University, where he was affiliated with the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics. He began his academic career at the College of William and Mary, where he was an assistant professor in the Department of Government from 2000-02. He currently serves as the president of the Southern Political Science Association and president of the Midwest Public Administration Caucus. He serves on the editorial boards of Presidential Studies Quarterly and Public Administration. PhD. Stanford University.

Areas of Expertise (9)

Congressional Oversight

Presidential Appointments

Public Administration

American Politics

Government Agencies



Federal Agencies

Confirmation Hearings

Accomplishments (5)

Madison Sarratt Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (professional)

2015, Vanderbilt University

Herbert Simon Award (professional)

2015, Presented by the Midwest Public Administration Caucus to honor a scholar who has made a significant contribution to the study of the public bureaucracy.

Robert Birkby Award for Teaching Excellence in Political Science (professional)


Herbert Kaufman Best Paper Award (professional)

2017, Presented by the American Political Science Association (APSA) Section on Public Administration for the best paper presented on a panel sponsored by the Public Administration Section at the APSA annual meeting.

Kenneth J. Meier Award (professional)

2016, Presented by the Midwest Political Science Association for the best paper in bureaucratic politics, public administration, or public policy at the annual meeting, 2015. “Controlling Agency Choke Points: Presidents and Regulatory Personnel Turnover,” (with Kathleen Doherty and Scott Limbocker)

Education (4)

Stanford University: Ph.D., Political Science 2000

Stanford University: M.A., Political Science 2000

University of Colorado at Boulder: M.A., Political Science 1996

University of California at Berkeley: B.A., Political Science 1992

With high honors and general distinction in scholarship

Affiliations (5)

  • Public Administration : Editorial board
  • Presidential Studies Quarterly : Editorial board
  • American Political Science Association : Member
  • Midwest Political Science Association : Member
  • Presidency Research Group : Member

Selected Media Appearances (3)

Trump wanted to slash the federal government. But federal agencies are doing just fine.

Washington Post  online


Many people worried that the Trump presidency had undermined the administrative state — the agencies, people and policies that make up the executive branch. Their fears were motivated by the president’s disdain for the administrative state. Donald Trump labeled government scientists, generals and prosecutors variously as part of the “swamp” or the “deep state,” while his early-administration adviser, Stephen K. Bannon declared that one of the administration’s three primary goals was the “deconstruction of the administrative state.”

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Here’s why Trump is threatening federal layoffs if Congress won’t shut this agency down

Washington Post  online


Congress and the Trump administration are playing a game of chicken over the fate of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which manages the civilian federal workforce. This past week, Margaret Weichert, the acting head of OPM, threatened to furlough 150 workers if Congress refuses to endorse the Trump administration’s plan to reorganize the agency. Meanwhile, Congress has already written into law limitations on the president’s reorganization efforts and is likely to call the OPM’s bluff on furloughs.

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Trump's slow pace of appointments is hurting government -- and his own agenda

Washington Post  online


Six months into his presidency, President Trump has just pulled retired general John F. Kelly away from his position heading Homeland Security to be his White House chief of staff.

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Selected Articles (5)

Elite Perceptions of Agency Ideology and Workforce Skill

The Journal of Politics

Mark D Richardson, Joshua D Clinton, David E Lewis

2017 Perceptions of the policy leanings of government agencies are an important component of an agency’s political environment, and an agency’s political environment can greatly influence how agencies formulate and implement public policy. We use a recent survey of federal executives to measure the perceptions of the ideological leanings of twice as many agencies as previously possible.

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Agency Performance Challenges and Agency Politicization

Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory

Abby K Wood, David E Lewis

2017 In this article we evaluate the relationship between political control and bureaucratic performance using information requested by researchers via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and Congress via congressional committee requests. The information requested was the same, and the timing of requests was similar. We find modest evidence of a relationship between agency politicization and a lack of responsiveness to requests for information from the public and Congress.

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Presidents and Patronage

American Journal of Political Science

Gary E. Hollibaugh Jr. Gabriel Horton David E. Lewis

2014 To what extent do presidents select appointees based upon campaign experience and connections? The answer to this question has important implications for our understanding of presidential management and political leadership. This article presents a theory explaining where presidents place different types of appointees and why, focusing on differences in ideology, competence, and non‐policy patronage benefits among potential appointees.

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Influencing the Bureaucracy: The Irony of Congressional Oversight

American Journal of Political Science

Joshua D. Clinton David E. Lewis Jennifer L. Selin

2013 Does the president or Congress have more influence over policymaking by the bureaucracy? Despite a wealth of theoretical guidance, progress on this important question has proven elusive due to competing theoretical predictions and severe difficulties in measuring agency influence and oversight. We use a survey of federal executives to assess political influence, congressional oversight, and the policy preferences of agencies, committees, and the president on a comparable scale.

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Government Reform, Political Ideology, and Administrative Burden: The Case of Performance Management in the Bush Administration

Public Administration Review

Stéphane Lavertu David E. Lewis Donald P. Moynihan

2013 This article examines how ideological differences between political officials and agencies may have affected the implementation of an ostensibly nonpartisan, government‐wide administrative initiative: the George W. Bush administration's Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) review of federal programs. The analysis reveals that managers in agencies associated with liberal programs and employees (“liberal agencies”) agreed to a greater extent than those in agencies associated with conservative programs and employees (“conservative agencies”) that PART required significant agency time and effort and that it imposed a burden on management resources.

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