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3 - Three Concepts of Issue Competence

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 September 2017

Jane Green
Affiliation:
University of Manchester
Will Jennings
Affiliation:
University of Southampton
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Summary

This chapter provides evidence for the three concepts of competence, drawing on public opinion data spanning over more than sixty years in the U.S., U.K. and Canada, more than fifty years in Germany and twenty-five years in Australia. The authors examine how much volatility exists in issue competence evaluations across time and across countries, using different measures. They reveal how issue ownership change – defined as a substantial gain or loss in average ratings across an election cycle– is actually quite common. They show how public opinion about issue competence exhibits common variation over time, such that broad shifts are observed where a party's ratings move on all issues together; resulting in a mood in public opinion about competence, or in ‘generalised competence’. The chapter highlights how each of the concepts has unique characteristics, and also how each interplays with the all-important concept of party identification. Issue ownership rankings tend to cut through partisan biases; partisans are more likely than others to update their evaluations of party handling of issues; and generalised competence is distinct to macro-partisanship and tends to lead partisanship more than be driven by it.
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The Politics of Competence
Parties, Public Opinion and Voters
, pp. 27 - 46
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2017

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