Issue Salience and Priorities in the American Electorate

Christopher Hare is an assistant professor of political science. His project, which aims to create an improved measure of citizens' policy priorities, was awarded an ISS Individual Research Grant in 2016. He provided this update in September 2017.

How did this project come about? What inspired it?

This project arose from a belief that citizens' policy priorities--what they consider to be the issues most deserving of national attention and action--are critical but understudied components of political behavior. In particular, this project was motivated by a desire to create an improved measure of policy priorities that could be used in outside models of political decision-making and vote choice.

How has it progressed since you received an ISS Individual Research Grant?

The ISS Individual Research Grant has allowed us to field a three-wave panel study in which we re-interviewed a sample of 1,000 US voters at multiple time points about their policy priorities and other political views. This design allowed us to assess the level of stability present in voters' policy priorities, and how that compares to their policy preferences, ideological identification, and partisanship. The survey also allowed us to randomize existing and new measures of policy priorities (ratings and rankings-based questions). This study was successfully fielded in the winter of 2017.

What notable or surprising findings can you share at this point?

What has surprised us is the degree of partisan polarization we find in voters' policy priorities. Democrats and Republicans don't simply disagree with the other party about their preferred action on a particular issue like taxes or climate change, but more deeply in whether they even consider the issue deserving of attention in the first place.

What is the next step?

We are continuing to dig more deeply into these data and perform more rigorous statistical analyses. For instance, we plan to estimate more detailed models of attitude stability in citizens' policy priorities as well as the main and conditional effects of priorities in presidential vote choice. We plan to begin presenting our results at political science conferences in early 2018, eventually culminating in a paper or series of paper to be sent out for publication in academic journals.

Learn more about Christopher Hare.