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Issue Ownership in Presidential Elections, with a 1980 Case Study

John R. Petrocik
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 40, No. 3 (Aug., 1996), pp. 825-850
DOI: 10.2307/2111797
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2111797
Page Count: 26
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Issue Ownership in Presidential Elections, with a 1980 Case Study
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Abstract

This paper develops and applies an issue ownership theory of voting that emphasizes the role of campaigns in setting the criteria for voters to choose between candidates. It expects candidates to emphasize issues on which they are advantaged and their opponents are less well regarded. It explains the structural factors and party system variables which lead candidates to differentially emphasize issues. It invokes theories of priming and framing to explain the electorate's response. Issue emphases are specific to candidates; voters support candidates with a party and performance based reputation for greater competence on handling the issues about which the voter is concerned. Aggregate election outcomes and individual votes follow the problem agenda. Content analysis of news reports, open-ended voter reports of important problems, and the vote are analyzed with graphic displays and logistic regression analysis for presidential elections between 1960 and 1992. Candidates do have distinctive patterns of problem emphases in their campaigns; election outcomes do follow the problem concerns of voters; the individual vote is significantly influenced by these problem concerns above and beyond the effects of the standard predictors.

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