What is Issue Ownership and How Should We Measure It?
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Recently, the concept of issue ownership has attracted increasing attention by students of electoral behaviour as well as party competition. However, both the definition and measurement of issue ownership—often drawn from Petrocik’s seminal 1996-article—is unclear. This constitutes a serious drawback to the further development and understanding of issue ownership itself and its purported effects. The paper addresses these problems by, first, establishing a definition of issue ownership at the individual level. On this basis, the standard ‘which party is best at handling issue X’ measure of issue ownership is assessed. The analyses using experiments embedded in a nationally representative panel survey indicate that the measure lacks validity and is partially redundant. Consequently, its replacement with a better performing alternative is recommended.
KeywordsIssue ownership Public opinion Political parties Question wording
Previous versions of the paper have been presented at the ECPR General Conference, Glasgow 2014, the annual meeting of the Danish Political Science Association, Vejle 2014, the Norwegian Citizen Panel Conference, Bergen 2014 and Nuffield Collge, Oxford University. I would like to thank participants at these occasions, Paul Sniderman in particular, as well as the annonymous reviewers for constructive comments and suggestions. Andreas Leed provided valuable research assistance. The research was conducted as part of the POLIS research group headed by Christoffer Green-Pedersen and supported by the Danish Council for Independent Research (Grant No. 11-104605). All errors and omissions remain my responsibility.
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