The Concept, Origin and Effects of Issue Ownership

20.03.2013 - 16:15
Location : 
A 5,6 Raum A 231
Type of Event : 
MZES Public Lecture
Prof. Dr. Stefaan Walgrave
Lecturer affiliation: 
Universiteit Antwerpen

The lecture deals with what issue ownership is, where it comes from, and what its effects are. The present literature is unclear what issue ownership actually is. Scholars agree that issue ownership refers to voter's perceptions of issues and parties - issue ownership is a link in voters' heads between specific issues and specific parties. But what this link entails and what it is based upon, remains largely uncharted. For sure, issue ownership includes a capacity dimension: some parties are considered to be 'better suited' to solve a policy problem. I argue that issue ownership not only implies a capacity but also an 'associative' dimension: when people think about an issue they think about a party, irrespective of whether they consider this party to be suited to deal with the issue. Second, extant work is unclear about the origins of issue ownership. Is it a stable or a dynamic asset of parties? I show experimentally that issue ownership, at least its competence dimension, is dynamic and varies over time. Media messages, for instance, have an effect on what people think about parties and issues. Finally, I present some evidence that issue ownership is consequential. Both on the micro level of individual voters as on the aggregate level of electoral outcomes there is evidence pointing out that issue ownership has electoral effects.