Political Behavior

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 95-124

First online:

He's Stealing My Issues! Clinton's Crime Rhetoric and the Dynamics of Issue Ownership

  • David B. HolianAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

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This research draws from theories of issue ownership and “crafted talk” to propose a way to systematically analyze how political elites use rhetoric to gain a strategic advantage over their opponents. The example described is President Clinton's success in neutralizing the Republican advantage on issues related to crime fighting. This research provides descriptive evidence to support Clinton's success in this endeavor. Moreover, using content analyses of elite attention to crime from 1981 to 2000, the analysis demonstrates that Clinton not only changed the dimension over which the parties discussed crime, from a focus on punishment to one stressing prevention, but also served as an agenda setter for media coverage of crime using this new emphasis.

rhetoric issue ownership crime content analysis presidency