This research was funded in part by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Issue Definition, Information Processing, and the Politics of Global Warming
Version of Record online: 19 JUN 2007
American Journal of Political Science
Volume 51, Issue 3, pages 552–568, July 2007
How to Cite
Wood, B. D. and Vedlitz, A. (2007), Issue Definition, Information Processing, and the Politics of Global Warming. American Journal of Political Science, 51: 552–568. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-5907.2007.00267.x
A related theoretical literature is that involving risk assessment. Policy problems become more salient to the public as the probability of potential risks (or advantages) become clear (). The public's understanding of risk is usually identified as the product of various social forces and psychological processes (Beck 1992; Freudenberg 1993; Kasperson et al. 2003; Luhman 1993; National Research Council 1996).
- Issue online: 19 JUN 2007
- Version of Record online: 19 JUN 2007
Past research has proposed various macrolevel theories of issue definition and agenda setting. However, we propose a microlevel theory of issue definition rooted in how individuals process information. We theorize that people process information about policy issues through a filter that emphasizes past assessments, ideology, background, social cues, and the continuing intrusion of new information. Most of these factors lead individual issue definitions toward stability. However, the introduction of an information signal of appropriate magnitude and character can produce punctuations in issue definition by individuals through time. Since the macrolevel definition of an issue is a type of aggregation of individual definitions, understanding how individuals define issues becomes a precursor to understanding issue definition at the system level. In evaluating the theory, we develop and evaluate a survey to study the issue definition process for individuals across multiple issues, and for global warming specifically. The survey also includes two embedded experiments to demonstrate the potential for punctuation in the issue-definition process for individuals and the system.