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The “Most Important Problem” dataset (MIPD): a new dataset on American issue importance

Heffington, C., Park, B. B. ORCID: and Williams, L. K. (2019) The “Most Important Problem” dataset (MIPD): a new dataset on American issue importance. Conflict Management and Peace Science, 36 (3). pp. 312-335. ISSN 0738-8942

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1177/0738894217691463


This article introduces the Most Important Problem Dataset (MIPD). The MIPD provides individual-level responses by Americans to “most important problem” questions from 1939 to 2015 coded into 58 different problem categories. The MIPD also contains individual-level information on demographics, economic evaluations, partisan preferences, approval and party competencies. This dataset can help answer questions about how the public prioritizes all problems, domestic and foreign, and we demonstrate how these data can shed light on how circumstances influence foreign policy attentiveness. Our exploratory analysis of foreign policy issue attention reveals some notable patterns about foreign policy public opinion. First, foreign policy issues rarely eclipse economic issues on the public’s problem agenda, so efforts to shift attention from poor economic performance to foreign policy via diversionary maneuvers are unlikely to be successful in the long term. Second, we find no evidence that partisan preferences—whether characterized as partisan identification or ideology—motivate partisans to prioritize different problems owing to perceptions of issue ownership. Instead, Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, respond in similar fashions to shifting domestic and international conditions.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:No Reading authors. Back catalogue items
Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Politics, Economics and International Relations > Politics and International Relations
ID Code:92858
Publisher:SAGE Publications

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