Pacific and Asian Communication Association
This study employs computer content analysis to investigate the issue emphasis of political campaign debates. Issue Ownership Theory (Petrocik, 1996) posits that each political party “owns” a set of issues, which means that a majority of the public believes that one party is better able to handle that issue than the other party. He predicts that political candidates will emphasize the issues owned by their own party. This study applies computer content analysis to 12 gubernatorial and 12 senatorial debates. The results confirm the predictions of issue ownership theory: Candidates discussed the issues owned by their political party more, and issues owned by the opposing party less, than their opponents.