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David Lewis

William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Political Science

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


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.

Media Appearances

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

    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.”

    October 18th, 2021

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

    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.

    June 24th, 2019

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

    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.

    August 3rd, 2017


Ph.D., Stanford University

M.A., Stanford University

M.A., University of Colorado at Boulder

B.A., University of California at Berkeley


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