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Issue ownership, unemployment and support for government intervention

Tor G Jakobsen and Ola Listhaug
Work, Employment & Society
Vol. 26, No. 3 (JUNE 2012), pp. 396-411
Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/43497104
Page Count: 16
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Abstract

In this article an examination is made of the association between unemployment and public demand for government intervention in the economy. The main hypothesis is drawn from the theory of issue ownership: public opinion is likely to shift to the left in times of high unemployment combined with a leftist government. Research on issue ownership has typically focused on case studies of particular countries. We extend the discussion to a much larger setting. Relying on data from the International Social Survey Programme from 23 OECD countries in the time period 1985-2007 we find a combined effect of issue ownership and agenda setting. An increase in unemployment leads the public to hold more leftist economic opinions when the government belongs to the left. However, ownership of an issue cannot be guaranteed to last if a party fails to deliver outcomes that are promised and expected from its historical legacy.

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