Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Political Science


Political Science

First Advisor

Robert Brown

Second Advisor

Jonathan Winburn

Third Advisor

Michael Henderson

Relational Format



Issue public theory holds that individuals are more likely to base political judgments, such as the decision of who to vote for on election day, on issues that are particularly important to them. This subset of issues is presumed to be relatively small in quantity for most individuals, allowing them to specialize in information gathering and attention. There is reason to believe the nature of issue publics has significantly changed in recent years as a result of profound shifts in the information environment. Many of the traditional findings within the literature are reassessed using data primarily from the 2008 Presidential election. Though significant changes are found, they do not, as theorized, represent a strengthening of issue publics within society. If anything, people appear to emphasize a larger array of issues today than ever before and rely no more heavily upon important issues than unimportant ones in their voting decision. Evidence is found, though, for a mediating role of the particular form of media the individual engages in.



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