Political Behavior

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 59–92

Government policy and citizen passion: A study of issue publics in contemporary America

  • Jon A. Krosnick


This article describes the findings of a program of research exploring the cognitive and behavioral consequences of passionate concern about government policy issues. American citizens vary a great deal in terms of the personal importance they attach to their attitudes on particular policy issues. Citizens whose policy attitudes are especially important to them are likely to think frequently about those attitudes, to perceive competing candidates as being relatively polarized on the issue, and to form presidential candidate preferences on the basis of those attitudes. Also, policy attitudes that citizens consider personally important are highly resistant to change and are therefore especially stable over long periods of time. The American public appears to be structured into many small issue publics, each composed of citizens who are passionately concerned about a single issue. Most Americans fall into very few issue publics, the particular ones being determined by each individual's unique self-interests, social identifications, and cherished values. The implications of these findings for the workings of democracies are discussed.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jon A. Krosnick
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Psychology and Political ScienceOhio State UniversityColumbus

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