A Choice-Based Measure of Issue Importance in the Electorate

Public Opinion

Ben Lauderdale

Chris Hanretty

Nick Vivyan


February 25, 2020


Measuring how much citizens care about different policy issues is critical for political scientists, yet existing measurement approaches have significant limitations. We provide a new survey-experimental, choice-based approach for measuring the importance voters attach to different positional issues, including issues not currently contested by political elites. We combine information from (i) direct questions eliciting respondents’ positions on different issues with (ii) a conjoint experiment asking respondents to trade-off departures from their preferred positions on those issues. Applying this method to study the relative importance of 34 issues in the UK, we show that British voters attach significant importance to issues like the death penalty which are not presently the subject of political debate and attach more importance to those issues associated with social liberal-conservative rather than economic left-right divisions.


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Replication data

Replication data can be found at the Harvard Dataverse


Lauderdale, Ben, Chris Hanretty, and Nick Vivyan. 2020. “A Choice-Based Measure of Issue Importance in the Electorate.” American Journal of Political Science 64 (3): 519–35. https://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12470.