Measuring Issue Salience in British Elections : Competing Interpretations of ''Most Important Issue''

R.A. Johns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

27 Citations (Scopus)


This article is about responses to the 'most important issue' question used in numerous election polls and surveys. Following Wlezien's work, two interpretations of the question can be sketched: (1) personal (the issue most important to the respondent) and (2) contextual (the issue that respondents perceive as topping the national political agenda). Using British Election Study data from 2005, the author shows that issues prominent in that campaign were often cited as most important by respondents who were neither particularly knowledgeable about those issues nor particularly influenced by them when voting. In sum, the contextual interpretation predominates. Hence, whatever else it is, 'most important issue' is not an accurate gauge of salience effects in models of vote choice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-158
Number of pages15
JournalPolitical Research Quarterly
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2008


  • issue salience
  • British elections
  • issue voting
  • valence politics

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