Competition, Cooperation, and Coexistence : An Ecological Approach to Public Agenda Dynamics in the United States (1958–2020)

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1 Scopus Citations
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Original languageEnglish
Journal / PublicationCommunication Research
Online published1 Oct 2022
Publication statusOnline published - 1 Oct 2022


The public agenda is an ecosystem in which public issues interact and compete to gain public attention. Whether this ecosystem is primarily competitive or cooperative is an unsettled question in the literature on agenda-setting. This study employs an ecological approach to explicate interissue relationships. It quantifies the nature and evolution of the issue ecosystem and examines the roles of the value orientations of issues and of individuals’ education levels and political partisanship in interissue relationships. The study compiled and analyzed the Gallup Most Important Problem polls in the United States from 1958 to 2020. The findings indicate that the issue ecosystem of the American public is essentially competitive and that the balance of competition and cooperation has remained unchanged over time. The interaction between public issues involving materialistic values was more likely to be competitive and the interaction between issues involving postmaterialistic values was more likely to be cooperative.

Research Area(s)

  • dynamic conditional correlation, issue competition, issue cooperation, issue ecosystem, public agenda