Benjamin E Lauderdale, Jack Blumenau, “Polarization over the Priority of Political Problems”

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What drives ideological division about political problems? When prioritising which problems are most in need of redress, voters might disagree about the severity of individual outcomes that constitute such problems; the prevalence of those problems; or whether such problems are amenable to solution by government action. We field a large survey experiment in the UK and US and develop a new measurement approach which allows us to evaluate how ideological disagreements change when respondents consider the individual badness, social severity, and priority for government action of a set of 41 political problems. We find that large ideological divergences are observed in beliefs about social severity and priority for government action, not individual problem badness, and only in the US. An important implication of these results is that perceptions of problem prevalence are a key source of polarization over problem-prioritization in the US.

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