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Polls, Elite Opinion, and the President: How Information and Issue Saliency Affect Approval


Michael R. Wolf is assistant professor of political science at Indiana University—Purdue University Fort Wayne. He has coauthored an article in German Politics and Society, chapters on the German electorate and public opinion in Germany and Britain, and the textbook Keeping the Republic, Third Edition.

David B. Holian is assistant professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. His work is published in Political Behavior, Legislative Studies Quarterly, American Politics Research, and Urban Affairs Review.


Our experiment examines the effect of information and issue saliency on presidential approval. Subjects received either pro-Bush or anti-Bush information on the president's Iraq War and Social Security policies in the form of newspaper opinion pieces and/or polls, and then evaluated Bush's overall job performance and his handling of these two issues. Information and polls that supported Bush's Social Security policy led subjects to support Bush on this issue, but attitudes were resistant on the more salient Iraq issue. The experiment demonstrates that poll results, more than simply reflecting aggregate opinion, influence attitudes on less salient issues.