How Citizens Think about National Issues: A Matter of Responsibility

  • Iyengar S
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Abstract

A domain-specific model of public opinion is proposed in which attribution of issue responsibility is a significant determinant of individuals' issue opinions and attitudes. Two dimensions of issue responsibility are assessed: causal responsibility focuses on the origins of the issue, while treatment responsibility focuses on alleviation of the issue. The model is tested with a sample of four issues: poverty, racial inequality, crime, and terrorism. The results indicate that for all four issues attributions of responsibility significantly affect issue opinions independently of partisanship, liberal-conservative orientation, information, and socioeconomic status. In general, agents of causal responsibility are viewed negatively while agents of treatment responsibility are viewed positively. In conclusion, the importance of domain-specificity for public opinion research is considered.

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Authors

  • Shanto Iyengar

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