PUBLIC OPINION REACTION TO REPEATED
EVENTS: Citizen Response to Multiple
Supreme Court Abortion Decisions
Danette Brickman and David A. M. Peterson
While numerous works explores how single events or political actions affect public
opinion, almost no research explores how this effect evolves with repeated actions. The
Conditional Response Model holds that while elite actors can inﬂuence and polarize the
public when they ﬁrst act on an issue, subsequent action will not have this same effect.
We challenge this model based on its depiction of psychological models of attitude
formation and change. Instead of focusing on the number of times an actor has ad-
dressed an issue, we argue that the state of public opinion is the key to determining how
the public will react to multiple elite actions over a long timeframe. We examine how the
public reacted to multiple Supreme Court decisions on abortion. Our results suggest that
the Conditional Response Model does a poor job of depicting public opinion and that
actors are not limited in their inﬂuence by the number of previous actions on an issue.
Key words: public opinion; supreme court; abortion; attitude change.
One model of how citizens respond to an issue moving on and off the
public agenda, the Conditional Response Model (Johnson and Martin,
1998), suggests that the key determinant of how these agenda shifts affect
citizens is the number of times an issue has been raised by a political actor.
The Conditional Response Model’s basis in public opinion is the Elaboration
Likelihood Model (ELM). The ELM is a dual process model of attitude
formation and change. If a person uses a central form of processing,
Danette Brickman, Department of Government, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 445 West
59th Street, New York, NY, 10019, USA; David A.M. Peterson, Department of Political Science,
Texas A&M University, 4348 TAMU, College Station, TX, 77843, USA (email@example.com).
Political Behavior, Vol. 28, No. 1, March 2006 (
0190-9320/06/0300-0087/0 Ó 2006 Springer ScienceþBusiness Media, Inc.