Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Edward S. Adler

Second Advisor

Brian Keegan

Third Advisor

Srinivas Parinandi

Fourth Advisor

Joshua Strayhorn

Fifth Advisor

Jennifer Wolak


This dissertation advances issue salience as a theoretical concept in lawmaking. Often, issue salience is used as a control or omitted from analyses that focus on other concepts in lawmaking such as public opinion, constituent demographics, and lawmaker characteristics. I argue that the field's theoretical understanding of lawmaking is incomplete without considering issue salience. In order to insert issue salience into current models of lawmaking, the concept must be better defined. I uncover various nuances in issue salience by parsing out differences in issues and the lawmaking entity that is the receiver of the signal. I do so by tracing the path of issue salience to lawmaking considering if the salience was exogenous or created by lawmakers, if the salience was created by a symbolic issue or resource issue, and if the salience is measured nationally or locally. I find lawmaking behaviors like bill sponsorship or the changing of statutes differs depending on how the issue salience was created. This dissertation also introduces a new data set. Using content from front page articles from 40 state newspapers, the data allow for the tracking of issue salience across time (2001-2016) and states. The result is content from over 580,000 articles used to measure various types of issue salience over time and across states. This is the first project to use data that allow for comparisons of issue salience across sub-national areas that are measured in the name units. The data allow for more specific analyses of issue salience and for models that are built on national level data to be tested at the state level.