Issue ownership cues and candidate support

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Issue ownership theory suggests that candidates should focus on the issues that are owned by—or associated with—their parties and mostly avoid issues that are owned by the opposing party. Doing so allows them to focus on their own party’s strengths rather than on their weaknesses. Despite this expectation, contemporary research finds that candidates discuss both their own party’s issues and trespass by talking about issues owned by the opposing parties. I argue that issue ownership cues—subtle information cues linking candidates to parties through the discussion of party-owned issues—should have heterogeneous effects across partisan groups. Using a survey experiment, I show that copartisans prefer candidates who focus on issues owned by their parties while opposing partisans prefer candidates who trespass; independents’ preferences do not appear to shift in response to these cues. It thus appears as if cuing people to connect candidates to one party or the other can inform citizens’ levels of support for those candidates. Depending on the composition of the electorate, trespassing can be an advantageous strategy for candidates.

Original languageEnglish
JournalParty Politics
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2019

Keywords

  • campaign communication
  • candidate support
  • issue ownership
  • parties
  • public opinion

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