Tim Ryan is a Professor of Political Science at UNC Chapel Hill. His research interests concentrate on political communication, political behavior, media effects, and political psychology.
His latest book examines the concept of an issue public, first introduced in Philip Converse’s classic essay on mass belief systems. Issue publics are segments of voters that have crystallized attitudes about a particular topic. Some people deeply care about particular topics, and they might be equipped to reach judgments on these topics. This simple idea could provide an important corrective to work that casts citizens’ political competence in a negative light. But, previous attempts to evaluate the issue publics hypothesis have been unsatisfying. This Element proposes and tests a new measurement approach for identifying issue publics. The evidence gathered leads to the conclusion that issue publics exist, but are smaller and more particularistic than existing scholarship presumes them to be. As such, researchers underappreciate the significance of issue opinions in electoral politics.