The Importance of Attention Diversity and How to Measure It

Boydstun, Amber E. ; Bevan, Shaun ; Thomas, Herschel F.

Document Type: Article
Year of publication: 2014
The title of a journal, publication series: Policy Studies Journal
Volume: 42
Issue number: 2
Page range: 173-196
Place of publication: Hoboken, NJ
Publishing house: Univ. of Illinois Press
ISSN: 0190-292X , 1541-0072
Publication language: English
Institution: Außerfakultäre Einrichtungen > Mannheim Centre for European Social Research - Research Department B
Subject: 320 Political science
Abstract: Studies of political attention often focus on attention to a single issue, such as front-page coverage of the economy. However, examining attention without accounting for the agenda as a whole can lead to faulty assumptions. One solution is to consider the diversity of attention; that is, how narrowly or widely attention is distributed across items (e.g., issues on an agenda or, at a lower level, frames in an issue debate). Attention diversity is an important variable in its own right, offering insight into how agendas vary in their accessibility to policy problems. Yet despite the importance of attention diversity, we lack a standard for how best to measure it. This paper focuses on the four most commonly used measures: the inverse Herfindahl Index, Shannon’s H, and their normalized versions. We discuss the purposes of these measures and compare them through simulations and using three real-world datasets. We conclude that both Shannon’s H and its normalized form are better measures, minimizing the danger of spurious findings that could result from the less sensitive Herfindahl measures. The choice between the Shannon’s H measures should be made based on whether variance in the total number of possible items (e.g., issues) is meaningful.

Dieser Eintrag ist Teil der Universitätsbibliographie.

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