The relationship of national and personal issue salience to attitude accessibility on foreign and domestic policy issues

Howard Lavine, Eugene Borgida, John L. Sullivan, Cynthia J. Thomsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations

Abstract

Research on issue voting indicates that the impact of a given attitude on the candidate appraisal process depends on its personal importance or salience (e.g., Krosnick, 1988). In the present research, we suggest that salient attitudes may be more influential because they are more cognitively accessible in memory relative to less salient attitudes. Results based on within-subject, between-issue comparisons indicate that individuals have more accessible attitudes toward issues that are highly salient to them than toward issues that are relatively less salient. Results also indicate that attitude accessibility is more closely associated with the personal importance of an issue than with the perceived national importance of an issue. Finally, in applying this accessibility analysis to the debate on the relative electoral influence of foreign versus domestic issues, we find that attitudes on the latter are more accessible and more likely to arouse self-interest. Discussion focuses on developing process models of political cognition and behavior, and on the utility of accessibility theory in providing insights into these processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-316
Number of pages24
JournalPolitical Psychology
Volume17
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1996

Keywords

  • Attitude accessibility
  • Issue salience
  • Policy attitudes

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