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The Limits of Issue Ownership Dynamics: The Constraining Effect of Party Preference

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2014
Author Walgrave Stefaan, Lefevere Jonas, Tresch Anke,
Project Structures and dynamics of issue competition in two consensus democracies: how political parties set their agendas to attract voters
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties
Volume (Issue) 24(1)
Page(s) 1 - 19
Title of proceedings Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties
DOI 10.1080/17457289.2013.811245


Issue ownership theory argues that when a voter considers a party to be the most competent amongst others to deal with an issue (that is, the party “owns” the issue), chances are the voter will vote for that party. Recent work has shown that perceptions of issue ownership are dynamic: they are affected by the media coverage of party messages. However, based on the broad literature on partisan bias, we predict that parties’ efforts to change issue ownership perceptions will have a difficult time breaching the perceptual screen created by a voter’s party preference. Using two separate experiments with a similar design we show that the effect of partisan issue messages on issue competence is moderated by party preference. The effect of issue messages is reinforced when people already like a party, and blocked when people dislike a party.