Policy agenda-setting studies

Attention, politics and the public

Authored by: Christoffer Green-Pedersen , Peter B. Mortensen

Routledge Handbook of Public Policy

Print publication date:  November  2012
Online publication date:  December  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415782456
eBook ISBN: 9780203097571
Adobe ISBN: 9781136223259


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The agenda-setting approach has a long tradition in public policy studies. Seminal work by Schattschneider (1960) and Bachrach and Baratz (1962) pointed to the crucial role of attention to policy problems. The allocation of attention was the “second face of power” (Bachrach and Baratz 1962), and the “conflict of conflicts” is crucial in politics (Schattschneider 1960). From these seminal studies grew the literature known as policy agenda-setting studies (Baumgartner et al. 2006). The crux of this tradition is precisely the focus on attention. Policy-making cannot be understood without understanding the agenda-setting process, which draws attention to policy problems that need to be addressed through policy decisions. The first studies in policy agenda-setting were classics like Cobb and Elder (1983) and Kingdon (1995). They mostly applied a case study perspective and focused on how agenda-setting leads to policy decisions. Kingdon (1995: Chapter 23) became influential in the study of policy decisions from an agenda-setting perspective.

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