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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.
In this chapter the concept of generalised competence is used to analyse and explain one of the most significant and yet largely unexplained questions about politics and electoral support. Why do parties so regularly lose public support over their period in office? A pattern of generalised competence is revealed consistent with the "costs of governing", or "costs of ruling". A theory of costs of governing is argued for based on time-varying attribution of blame. Voters' judge incumbent parties' performance in predictable ways - delineated by different time periods. Specifically, the theory argues that newly elected governments experience a largely blame-free honeymoon period, followed by a period of responsibility attribution (and blame) with a bias towards negative information, and the accumulation of blame up until a saturation point where voters have made their minds up on the incumbent and new information is of little use. Support for this theory is found based on analysis of support for incumbents in five countries (the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and Germany), in addition to evidence consistent with a "coalition of minorities" explanation, whereby voters punish incumbents for cumulative deviation from public preferences for policy.
For ownership, performance and generalised competence to add meaningfully to the understanding of electoral behaviour, their effects should be observed individually and in combination. This chapter demonstrates how each concept influences voting decisions and therefore how each shapes election outcomes. Analyses of individual level data, and of aggregate level data, shows effects for all three concepts in vote choices in the U.S. and in the U.K., controlling for key variables. Furthermore, the chapter assesses the question of when and why competence should be particularly important to elections, taking the valence argument of Donald Stokes that events and some elections should cause competence to matter more. This suggests that the concepts of competence are not always equally important in explaining electoral support over time, but that their influence depends upon the political context. The drivers of this importance appear to be shaped by major political, economic, policy and international events, and the role of elections in establishing when vote choices are – or are not – more closely associated with issue competence.
Competence is central to elections and it is therefore central to political elites. The concluding chapter reflects on the theoretical and empirical insights offered in the book through its three ways of thinking about public opinion about competence: as relatively stable issue strengths, or reputations on different policy issues (ownership), as short-term fluctuations in issue ratings (performance), and as the general way in which parties are rated to be competent, or incompetent (generalised competence). The chapter considers how the data demonstrated throughout the book might cause researchers to re-think what they think of as ‘issue ownership’ and what the implications of this might be. It outlines how the findings on ownership, performance and competence contribute to understanding across a range of fields, such as theories of party competition, understanding of elections, costs of ruling, and the responsiveness and accountability of political elites on policy performance. The chapter concludes that party policy reputations, political campaigns and the importance of competence are – to a large extent – the outcomes of events rather than under the control of political parties and governments. This challenges the notions that political power is used to frame and condition the basis of electoral choice; politicians have to respond to the politics of competence as much as they are the drivers of it.
This chapter addresses a major gap in current understanding of issue ownership. While the existing literature offers ideas about what may cause ownership change, and some examination of isolated cases, there has - until now - been no systematic test of why parties lose and gain issue ownership. The authors provide such a test in this chapter, providing cross-national over-time evidence in support of a theory of issue ownership change. The theory argues that ownership change should occur when something happens that is so clear a signal, and so symbolic, that widely held beliefs about political parties are thrown into question. Either a major performance shock or a major symbolic policy change should take place, and there should be party supply to compete on the issue. Conditions associated with 37 changes in issue ownership in the U.S., U.K., Australia and Germany are analysed, alongside cases of no-ownership-change, enabling the authors to show that in all cases of issue ownership change there are pre-conditions of public and/or political salience, the presence of a symbolic performance shock or change, and the presence of a symbolic policy shift by a party. The simultaneous presence of those conditions is not observed in cases of ownership stability - for seven issues over 58 separate election cycles – providing further evidence for the theory.
This chapter reviews the literature on issue ownership and competence, and offers a response. It navigates the theories and evidence from which the authors construct their argument for the three concepts of issue competence used in the book; ownership, performance and generalised competence. The chapter highlights confusion in understandings of issue ownership as a long-term reputation and a short-term lease; considers measurement problems in the analysis of issue ownership (especially relating to partisan endogeneity); and explains the different implications of long-term and short-term competence. It explains why issue ownership should be separated from performance, why the concept of valence has come to mean almost everything and nothing in the formal literature, and why the term ‘valence’ should be used with caution. The authors highlight a general notion of competence, how that builds on existing research and why and how it arises. The chapter outlines how the different concepts of public opinion can be measured for the purpose of analysis, at both an individual and aggregate level, and how they are defined and measured throughout the book.
This chapter introduces the puzzles raised by the existing literature relating to competence in public opinion, valence, partisanship, party competition and vote choices, and summarises the three concepts of public opinion about competence demonstrated throughout the book. Those concepts are (i) issue ownership – a positive handling reputation via the representation by parties of different issue-publics and constituencies; (ii) issue performance – the degree to which a policy is going well or going badly for the party in office; and (iii) generalised competence – the degree to which parties are trusted across the policy agenda. It identifies the theoretical questions that can be tackled by thinking about competence in these ways: what explains changes in issue ownership? Does policy performance matter, and if so, for which issues and parties? Why do governing parties so regularly lose support? How, when and why does competence matter in elections? The chapter explains the analytic approach of the book which assesses variation in public opinion over time, across parties, periods of government, across countries and across policy issues.
This chapter reveals how the public updates their evaluations of the issue handling of governing parties in response to performance on policy. It explores the second concept of competence – performance – following the short-term and more volatile aspect of public opinion in studies of issue ownership. The chapter analyses the degree to which mass publics respond to government performance across a range of policy domains and how they make performance attributions about governing and opposition parties. It reveals asymmetry in the attribution for responsibility of incumbents versus oppositions. For the most part, the analyses show that publics assign responsibility to the party-in-government and are unlikely to trust an opposition party more on an issue as a result of a government failure in terms of policy performance. They also show, however, that asymmetric performance updating only sometimes results in asymmetric reward and punishment voting. Opposition parties frequently benefit at the ballot box from performance deteriorations under a rival party in government. The implications are important for understanding the dynamics of public opinion about performance and their electoral consequences.
Using decades of public opinion data from the US, UK, Australia, Germany and Canada, and distinguishing between three concepts - issue ownership, performance and generalised competence - Green and Jennings show how political parties come to gain or lose 'ownership' of issues, how they are judged on their performance in government across policy issues and how they develop a reputation for competence (or incompetence) over a period in office. Their analysis tracks the major events causing people to re-evaluate party reputations and the costs of governing which cause electorates to punish parties in power. They reveal why, when and how these movements in public opinion matter to elections. The implications are important for long-standing debates about performance and partisanship, and reveal that public opinion about party and governing competence is, to a great extent, the product of major shocks and predictable dynamics.
Election-oriented elites are expected to emphasize issues on which their party possesses ‘issue ownership’ during campaigns. This article extends those theories to the content of executive and legislative agendas. Arguing that executives have incentives to pursue their party’s owned issues in the legislature, it theorizes three conditions under which these incentives are constrained: when governments are responsive to issues prioritized by the public, when a party has a stronger electoral mandate and under divided government. The theory is tested using time-series analyses of policy agendas of US congressional statutes and State of the Union addresses (1947–2012) and UK acts of Parliament and the Queen’s Speech (1950–2010). The results offer support for the theory, and are particularly strong for the US State of the Union address, providing insights into institutional differences. The implications provide reassurance concerning the conditions under which governments focus attention only on their partisan issue priorities.
We discuss the stellar halos of massive elliptical galaxies, as revealed by our ambitious integral-field spectroscopic survey MASSIVE. We show that metallicity drops smoothly as a function of radius out to ~ 2.5 Re, while the [α/Fe] abundance ratios stay flat. The stars in the outskirts likely formed rapidly (to explain the high ratio of alpha to Fe) but in a relatively shallow potential (to explain the low metallicities). This is consistent with expectations for a two-phase growth of massive galaxies, in which the second phase involves accretion of small satellites. We also show some preliminary study of the gas content of these most MASSIVE galaxies.