"Easy Issues" in American Politics
Morris, Irwin L.
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My dissertation explores Carmines' and Stimson's well-known and widely cited distinction between "easy" and "hard" issues as described in "The Two Faces of Issue Voting" (1980). They argue that some issues are inherently "easy," and are understood by the public at an emotional, "gut" level, while other issues are intrinsically "hard" and require greater political sophistication and interest to process. This theory is intuitively appealing and has been widely-accepted among political science scholars and pundits; however, many questions remain unanswered about this theory. In my dissertation I examine three primary questions---whether "easy" and "hard" issues exist, what are the sources of easiness, and how malleable is issue difficulty. I argue that economic and foreign policy issues, which are often regarded as "hard" are actually performance issues, and that issues are not inherently easy but are made so through political discourse. However, the ability to frame issues is not unlimited.