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Tracking Issue Attention: Specifying the Dynamics of the Public Agenda

Gary T. Henry and Craig S. Gordon
The Public Opinion Quarterly
Vol. 65, No. 2 (Summer, 2001), pp. 157-177
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3078800
Page Count: 21
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Tracking Issue Attention: Specifying the Dynamics of the Public Agenda
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Abstract

While interest in issues shifts daily, tracking these changes is currently done by multiple surveys, which are conducted months apart. In this article, we adapt political tracking poll methods to model the functional form of issue attention changes through three phases, including equilibrium, developing interest, and decline. We find that opinions do follow discernible cycles. Further, we test and find strong support for the "boredom" explanation that reactions to external events that are brought to the attention of the public through the media are much greater during the developing interest phase than the saturation phase. The evidence gathered from the newly adapted method has implications for modeling the issue-attention cycle and testing the effects of media coverage and external events on public interest in issues.

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