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Justin S. Vaughn

Justin Vaughn, Political Science, studio portrait

The Department of Political Science has moved to Boise State University’s new School of Public Service.  Please visit our new website!

Assistant Professor
Environmental Research Building 5123
(208) 426-2515

Office Hours

Summer 2015
By Appointment



Professor Justin Vaughn focuses his research and teaching on American political institutions, especially the presidency. He currently serves as a board member for the American Political Science Association’s Presidents & Executive Politics section, and co-edits the Presidents & Executive Politics Report. Dr. Vaughn earned his Ph.D. at Texas A&M University, and his BS and MS in Political Science at Illinois State University.

Curriculum Vitae

Dr. Vaughn’s Curriculum Vitae.


Dr. Justin Vaughn is the co-author of Czars in the White House: The Rise of Policy Czars as a Presidential Management Tool (University of Michigan Press, 2015). He is also co-editor of three volumes related to the presidency and political communication: Controlling the Message: New Media in American Political Campaigns (NYU Press, 2015); The Rhetoric of Heroic Expectations: Establishing the Obama Presidency (Texas A&M University Press, 2014); and Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics(University Press of Kentucky, 2012), which won both the PCA/ACA Susan Koppelman Award and the SWPACA Peter C. Rollins Award in 2014.

Dr. Vaughn has published extensively on the American presidency, including articles in journals such as Public Administration, Political Research Quarterly, Presidential Studies Quarterly, Social Science Quarterly, Review of Policy Research, and Administration & Society as well as numerous book chapters. Vaughn has conducted research at several presidential libraries (including Nixon, Bush I, and Clinton), organized and participated in events at the Brookings Institution and Carnegie Institution for Science, and lectured in numerous venues across the nation and abroad, including Ohio State University, Vanderbilt University, Hong Kong University, and Ural State University in Yekaterinburg, Russia. Dr. Vaughn’s current research continues his focus on executive politics. In addition to ongoing projects on gubernatorial politics and policy leadership with Curt Nichols (Baylor University) and presidential greatness with Brandon Rottinghaus (University of Houston), he is at work on a book-length project concerning the rise of the post-rhetorical presidency.


Controlling the Message: New Media in American Political Campaigns9781479867592_Full

In Controlling the Message, Farrar-Myers and Vaughn curate a series of case studies that use real-time original research from the 2012 election season to explore how politicians and ordinary citizens use and consume new media during political campaigns. Broken down into sections that examine new media strategy from the highest echelons of campaign management all the way down to passive citizen engagement with campaign issues in places like online comment forums, the book ultimately reveals that political messaging in today’s diverse new media landscape is a fragile, unpredictable, and sometimes futile process. The result is a collection that both interprets important historical data from a watershed campaign season and also explains myriad approaches to political campaign media scholarship—an ideal volume for students, scholars, and political analysts alike.

Czars in the White House: The Rise of Policy Czars as Presidential Management Tools9780472119585

Combining public administration and political science approaches to the study of the American presidency and institutional politics, Justin S. Vaughn and José D. Villalobos argue that the creation of policy czars is a strategy for combating partisan polarization and navigating the federal government’s complexity. They present a series of in-depth analyses of the appointment, role, and power of various czars: the energy czar in the mid-1970s, the drug czar in the late 1980s, the AIDS czar in the 1990s, George W. Bush’s trio of national security czars after 9/11, and Obama’s controversial czars for key domestic issues.
Laying aside inflammatory political rhetoric, Vaughn and Villalobos offer a sober, empirical analysis of what precisely constitutes a czar, why Obama and his predecessors used czars, and what role they have played in the modern presidency.

rhetoric_picThe Rhetoric of Heroic Expectations: Establishing the Obama Presidency (Presidential Rhetoric and Political Communication

Campaign rhetoric helps candidates to get elected, but its effects last well beyond the counting of the ballots; this was perhaps never truer than in Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. Did Obama create such high expectations that they actually hindered his ability to enact his agenda? Should we judge his performance by the scale of the expectations his rhetoric generated, or against some other standard?The Rhetoric of Heroic Expectations: Establishing the Obama Presidency grapples with these and other important questions.

Women_PicWomen and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics

The president of the United States traditionally serves as a symbol of power, virtue, ability, dominance, popularity, and patriarchy. In recent years, however, the high-profile candidacies of Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and Michelle Bachmann have provoked new interest in gendered popular culture and how it influences Americans’ perceptions of the country’s highest political office.

With its strong, multidisciplinary approach, Women and the White House commences a wider discussion about the possibility of a female president in the United States, the ways in which popular perceptions of gender will impact her leadership, and the cultural challenges she will face.  This book is the winner of the 2014 Susan Koppelman Award by the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association.

Popular Media

The Making of a Great Ex-President“- The New York Times, May 23, 2015

President’s Day Guest OpinionThe Idaho Statesman, February 15, 2015

Measuring Obama Against the Great Presidents“- Brookings Institution, February 13, 2015

Why an Ebola Czar Might Be Just What the Doctor Ordered“- Brookings Institution, October 17, 2014

Why Presidents Must Play the Hero“- The Monkey Cage, February 17, 2014