THE INFLUENCE OF PARTISAN CONFLICT ON POLICY ATTITUDES Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
Creator
  • Atkinson, Mary Layton
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Political Science
Abstract
  • The central question the project asks is to what degree are policy attitudes shaped by aversion to partisan conflict versus the substance of proposed legislation? I argue that the tenor of elite debate--which is often highlighted by the news media and characterized by them as combative--acts as a powerful signal that shapes public policy opinion in predictable ways. The news media's focus on heated partisan debate can erode public support for policies associated with it because many Americans view such conflict as a sign of dysfunction in the government. Each of the articles that comprise the dissertation uses a different methodological approach to test this hypothesis: a natural experiment, a controlled experiment, and an aggregate level examination of the relationship between policy debate in the news and policy-specific mood over time. I find that approximately two-thirds of policy-focused news reports employ a conflict frame that highlights precisely the elements of the lawmaking process that many Americans dislike. Further, I find that the public responds more negatively to policies associated with partisan conflict, even when controlling for factors related to the substance of the bill and to individual's underlying policy preferences. These findings are of importance for lawmakers and scholars of public opinion alike. They suggest that to fully understand patterns of public policy opinion we must examine attitudes toward the substance of policies and the process of lawmaking.
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  • In Copyright
Advisor
  • Baumgartner, Frank
Degree
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2013
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