Attention to issues in a system of separated powers: The macrodynamics of American policy agendas

  • Flemming R
  • Wood B
  • Bohte J
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Abstract

Theories of agenda setting ignore the macrodynamics of shifts in attention to policy issues in the American system of separated powers. Changes in attention to issues emerge from interactions be- tween the three branches of government, as well as interactions between the government and the public. To map these complexities, we use vector autoregression methods to sort out the causal se- quences and macrodynamics of issue attention over time between systemic and institutional agendas for three broad issue areas. The analyses reveal significant interactions among the institutional agen- das and between the systemic and institutional agendas, but provide more support for a top-down pattern of issue attention than for the bottom-up pattern suggested by most past literature. Reduc- tionist theories positing either a linear, unidirectional sequence of issue movement or randomness should be viewed cautiously in light of these findings, which point to the need for more holistic views of agenda setting

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Authors

  • RB Flemming

  • BD Wood

  • John Bohte

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