Local Context, Personal Experience, and Perceptions of Salience in the Opioid Crisis

How does exposure to the opioid crisis affect perceptions of political salience? When do local conditions matter most for public opinion? I use a series of public opinion surveys to test the relationship between overdose mortality and personal experience with beliefs about the salience of the opioid crisis. I find that individuals living in areas with higher overdose death rates are more likely to consider the opioid crisis to be severe and are more likely to assign political priority to the crisis, but only when national attention is focused on the issue. Personal experience is a more powerful and consistent predictor of perceptions of salience. While local context matters, the effects are relatively small and not long-lasting, suggesting a potential disconnect between the reality of a public health crisis on the ground and demand for government intervention.

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Chris Chaky
Ph.D. Candidate in Government

I am a PhD Candidate in Government at Harvard University, where I study American politics. My main research interests are public health, criminal justice, public opinion, and urban and local politics.