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PSC 307: Public Policy Analysis.
Lecture Slides on
John Kingdon, Agendas and Public Policies, 2e, 1995.
Compiled by Jeremy Lewis; revised 31 Mar. 2006.

Chap. 01: Policy Analysis: How Does An Idea's Time Come?.
Chap. 02: Participants on the Inside of Government.
Chap. 03: Outside of Government But Not Just Looking In.
Chap. 04: Processes: Origins, Rationality, Incrementalism, & Garbage Cans
Chap. 05: Problems.
Chap. 06: Policy Primeval Soup.
Chap. 07: Political Stream.
Chap. 08: The Policy Window and Joining Streams.
Table of streams joining in policy window NEW
Chap. 09: Wrapping Things Up .
Chap. 10: Some Further Reflections .

Chap. 01:
Policy Analysis: How Does An Idea's Time Come?
Kristin Goodrich, 2002

* Processes of public policy making
    1. setting of the agenda
    2. specification of alternatives from which a choice is to be made
    3. authoritative choice among those specified alternatives
    4. implementation of decision
* agenda: a list of subjects or problems that are being paid attention serious attention by governmental officials and
those outside of the government that are close to those officials.
* purpose of the agenda setting process is to narrow the range of issues to those that are focused upon
* governmental agenda subjects is that which is receiving the attention
* decision agenda is the list of the subjects within the government that are considered to be activated
* aside from the agenda , alternatives are ; in addition, looked upon which may fall under a separate process
* good examples of the process of agenda setting can be found in the carter administration with the issue of health
care and the Nixon administration with the issue of transportation

Chap. 02:
Participants on the Inside of Government.
(Larry McLemore, 2002)
The Administration
Actors include the President, Executive Office Staff, and Political Appointees.
1) The President single-handedly sets agendas through the following resources: institutional-veto power and hiring and firing,
organizational, command of public attention, the partisan element of a non divided Congress
The involvement constitutes the amount of impact the president has.
2) Presidential Staff is more involved in the alternatives in setting the agenda.  The staff receives this duty through delegation of
authority to the department level.
3) Political Appointees include cabinet secretaries, bureau heads, and administrators.  They deal with agenda alternatives, not the
setting of agenda.
They look out for the interests of their agency or department by evaluating what issues are important to them.  They are often
protected because of the affiliation they have with the president.

Civil Servants
They are not nearly as influential as the Administration.  They are preoccupied mainly by implementation.  Line Bureaucrats
administer existing programs.  Staff Bureaucrats work on changes.  They have more impact on the alternatives.  Their resources
include longevity, expertise, and relationships with Congress and interest groups.

Capitol Hill
Have an impact on both agendas and alternatives.  Their resources include legal authority, formidable publicity, blended information,
and longevity.  The incentives they have are to satisfy constituents, enhance the reputation of Washington, and achieve individual
conception of public policy.  Also, their staff operates within the realm of people who have hired them.

Chap. 2:
Participants on the Inside of Government.
(Jared Lyles, 2000)

  • The Players in the Game



    A. The Administration
    - Actors include the president, Executive Office Staff, and Political Appointees

        The President- Can single-handedly set agendas through these resources:
    - institutional- veto and hiring/firing
    - organizational
    - command of public attention
    - partisan element of a non-divided congress
    - Involvement constitutes the amount of the presidents impact
    1. Presidential Staff
    - The Staff is more involved the alternatives in setting the agenda
    - Receive this duty through delegation to dept. level
    1. Political Appointees
    - cabinet secerataries, bureau heads, adminstrations
    - They also deal more in the agenda alternatives, not the original idea
    - They elevate issues from their own agencies
    - Are protected from many because of affiliation with president

    B. Civil Servants
    - Not nearly as influential as the Administration

  • Activities

  • - Preoccupied by mainly implementation
    - Line Bureaucrats administer existing programs, staff bureaucrats work on changes
    - more impact on the alternatives
  • Resources

  • - Longevity
    - Expertise
    - Relationships with congress and interest groups

    C. Capitol Hill
    - Have an impact on both agenda and alternatives

    - Legal Authority
    - Formidable Publicity
    - Blended Information
    - Longevity - Satisfy Constituents
    - enhancing Washington reputation
    - achieve individual conception of public policy
    - their staff operates within the realm of the people who hire them

    Chapter 2:
    Participants on the Inside of Government
    (Gina Hughes, 1998)

    Three subjects discussed

    1.  the importance of each participant
    2.  the ways each is important
    3.  the resources available to each participant

    The Administration
    1. usually considered one of, or a combination of three actors:  the president himself, the staff in the Executive Office that is responsible to the president and the political appointees in departments and  bureaus who are responsible to the president.

    2.  when the Administration considers an issue a top priority, others do too
    3.  the president
    I.  can single handedly set the agendas of the executive branch, the people in  Congress and  outside of govt
    II.  does not totally control the policy agenda, for many events beyond his control  impinge on the agendas of various participants and even on his own agenda
    III.  he can dominate and determine the policy agenda, but cannot dominate the  alternatives and cannot determine the final outcome

    IV.  his resources

    a.  the veto and prerogative to hire and fire
    b.  organization
    c.  command of public attention
    d.  he may have a partisan advantage
    e.  involvement or how much he talks about the issue
    4.  presidential staff
    I.  not discussed as frequently in agenda setting
    II.  important in presenting the alternatives

    5.  political appointees

    I.  those who have positions appointed by the president
    II.  are the most frequently mentioned
    III.  issues that are important to them are considered important to many
    IV.  president’s policy take precedence over appointee’s
    V.  appointees tend to bend with political wind
    VI.  the disadvantage: impermanence
    6.  civil servants
    I.  alleged to have expertise, dedication, interest and staying power
    Activities: Agendas, Alternatives, and Implementation
    1.  president can dominate his political appointees and appointees can dominate the career  civil servants
    2.  career civil servants have a greater impact on alternative generation
    3.  appointees tend to define agenda items and solicit the advice of careerists
    4.  resources
    a.  longevity
    b.  expertise
    c.  relationships with people in Congress and in the interest groups
    Capitol Hill
    1.  considered very important
    2.  different in that they have impact on both agenda setting and alternative generation
    3.  advocates tend to adjust proposals to satisfy Congress
    4.  resources
    I.  legal authority
    II.  formidable publicity
    III.  blended information
    IV.  longevity
    5.  incentives
    I.  publicity
    II.  enhancing intra-Washington reputation
    III.  conception of good public policy
    6.  congressional staff
    I.  aides to members of congress
    II.  specialize in one policy area
    III.  draft legislation, negotiate the details of agreements among the interested parties,  arrange for hearing witness lists and write speeches and briefing materials for the members
    IV.  get their ideas from a wide range of sources
    V.  are set by the limits of the member of Congress that hires them
    VI.  only have influence in  the alternatives; not in agenda setting
    VII.  staffer and member work together to create the agenda

    Chapter 3:
    Outside of Government But Not Just Looking In.
    Marie Wilkerson [2002]

    Interest Groups
    *Participants without formal government positions include:  Interest groups, researchers,
    academics, consultants, media, parties and other elections-related actors, and the mass public
    *Governmental position- to have the formal authority granted by statute and by the constitution
    Types of Interest Groups
        -business and industry,
            *In business and industry transportation is the most important in the cases analyzed
            *business and industry are 9 of 12 transportation cases
            *health is prominent in the professional cases studies
            *show up more in interviews
        -public interest groups
            *sometimes influences policy agenda
            *the consensus that used to exist among the participating parties has diminished
    because of the emergence of public interest groups
        -government officials (lobbyists)
            * mostly representatives of the states and cities
            * they lobby for change within their environment (Medicaid Program)
    Types of Group Activity
        -some activities affect the agenda setting
        -some activities affect the alternatives considered by policy makers
        -some  activities are positive
                *promoting new courses of governmental action
        -some activities are negative
                *blocking changes in public policy
    Group Resources
        *resoures can give a group an advantage or disadvantage
    Academics, Researchers, and Consultants

    Types of Activity
            *academics affect the alternatives more than governmental agendas
            *importance of academics might be the short and long term affects

    The Media
          *mass media affects the public opinion attention to governmental issues
            *mass media should have a impact on public agenda
    Elections-Related Participants
        -candidates promise actions on many policy fronts
        -campaigns leave data which influences agenda
    Political Parties
        - affect policy agendas through the content of their platforms,
        -the impact of their leadership in Congress and
        -the claim they might have on their adherents,
        -and the ideologies the represent
    Public Opinion
        *general public opinions treated as important in 57 percent of the interviews
        *public opinion is in the middle of insignificance and prominent total sources
        *can have positive or negative effects

    Chapter 4:
    Processes: Origins, Rationality, Incrementalism, and Garbage Cans

    I. Origins

  • Public policy derived from multiple actors
  • Prominent factor is not source of policy ideas, but climate in government or receptivity
  • B. Nobody Leads Anybody Else: policies roam around institutions
  • C. Comprehensive, Rational Decision Making Model
  • Does not accurately describe reality
  • However, it is as rational and orderly as humans can make them

  • D. Incrementalism E. Garbage Can Model
  • Organized anarchies have 3 properties:
    1. Four Streams Running through organized anarchies
    * A choice opportunity is a "garbage can into which various kinds of problems and solutions are dumped by participants as they are generated" F. Revised Model
    1. Three Processes of Federal Government Agenda Setting
    1. Three Major Streams in Federal Government

    Chap. 5: Problems

    Chap. 6: Policy Primeval Soup
    By: Sierra R. Turner, 2004
  •  “Much as molecules float around in what biologists call the ‘primeval soup’ before life came into being, so ideas float around in these [policy] communities…. While many ideas float around in this policy primeval soup, the ones that last, as in a natural selection system, meet some criteria. Some ideas survive and prosper; some proposals are taken more seriously than others.”
  •  Policy communities are “composed of specialists in a given policy area” inside and outside of government. “This community of specialists hums along on its own, independent of….political events” and is characterized by fragmentation.
  •  “Many people have proposals they would like to see considered seriously, alternatives they would like to see become part of the set from which choices are eventually made.” Agendas are derived from a set of alternatives currently in “the soup;” it’s important to point out that alternatives currently out there have an advantage over new ideas.
  •  Policy entrepreneurs “advocate for proposals” and their defining characteristic… “is their willingness to invest their resources… in the hope of a future return.” These entrepreneurs advocate to promote their personal interests, solve a problem, and shape public policy according to their values, and for a love of the game: “policy groupies.”
  •  Available alternatives are important because “normally” before a subject can attain a solid position on a decision agenda, a viable alternative is available for decision makers to consider. “It is not enough that there is a problem, even quite a pressing problem. There is also generally a solution ready to go, already softened up, already worked out…the subject with an ‘available alternative’ is the one that rises on the agenda….”
  •  In conclusion, public policy choices come from alternatives placed on the agenda. Agenda items are chosen from among already existing “available alternatives.” The work of policy communities and policy entrepreneurs plays a crucial role in this process.



    Chap. 7: Political Stream
    [Larry McLemore, 2002]

    The Political Stream is made up of public mood, pressure group campaigns, election results, partisan or
    ideological distributions in Congress, and changes of administration.  These developments largely impact
    the agendas and what issues become more or less of a priority.  In the political stream, there is always
    change which is caused by the shifts of important participants in the system or a response to shifts in
    national mood or interest group configurations.

    The National Mood
    People in and around government sense a national mood.  It is important to be able to read when the
    national mood shifts.  The national mood indicates that there is a consensus among people in the way
    they are thinking and that the consensus changes over time in recognizable ways.  Further, these changes
    have significant impacts on policy agendas and outcomes.  The changes in national mood are described in
    general terms such as the "antigovernment mood."  The national mood can create the "fertile ground" for
    a policy's promotion or it can slow a policy down.  The changes in the national mood are fundamental to
    the process and inevitable--just as a pendulum swings.  If the pendulum goes one direction it will surely
    swing back in the other direction.  This can cause realignments of parties.  Often the general mood of the
    public can drive policies that are contrary to what the consensus is on specific issues.  Discovering the
    national mood is done by politicians judging their constituents in various ways and by nonelected officials
    who try to sense the mood from the information politicians give them.  National moods must be given
    attention--they often dictate what happens to policies.

    Organized Political Forces
    The organized political forces are interest group pressure, political mobilization, and the behavior of
    political elites.  When an issue is supported or leaders lean in favor of an issue it pushes the issue and can
    cause it to become more prominent on the agenda (the opposite is also true).  Often the determining
    factor in a policy's survival or downfall is who is one which side and who is the most adamant about their
    position on the issue.  Often a balance of organized forces on both sides of the issue creates a deadlock
    in which there is no change made.  Observers will often conclude that one side is stronger or is right
    based upon their beliefs.  Governmental programs have groups of supporters who will defend them.  If
    an issue does not have significant supporters it is often not a high priority on the agenda.  The politicians
    must consider the consequences they would face if they go against a powerful interest group.

    Government In The Political Stream
    The changes in administrations and changes in members of Congress cause for agendas to change.
    Agendas can change by incumbents changing their priorities or by new people filling government
    positions who have different priorities.  Turnover of officials produces new agenda items it also makes
    agenda items that were previously important no longer a priority in some cases.  When an administration
    changes the participants in government are waiting to see what the priorities will be and how successful
    the new administration can be in pushing them.  Not only does turnover in Congress and administration
    changes affect the priorities but changes in the bureaucracies also affect agendas.
    Also, when speaking of government jurisdiction must be considered.  This considers constitutions,
    charters, statutes, and regulations.  This is often shown by a struggle between different agencies and
    officials who all have different interests.  "Where you stand depends upon where you sit."  The is also this
    same sort of competition between executive branch departments.  These disputes can often cause an
    item to rise in importance on the agenda, which sometimes forces movement and sometimes causes

    Consensus Building In Political Stream
    Consensus building is governed by bargaining.  The coalitions are built by the granting of concessions to
    each group that makes up the consensus.  This means that to be effective in consensus building each
    group must be willing to compromise on minor details to keep a good policy in tact.  To begin, the
    participants usually are adamant about their positions and are unwilling to compromise, but when it
    becomes clear that the policy and all the work that has gone into it will fail without some compromise
    there must be a decision.  One can either compromise or can not compromise risking the loss of the
    entire project, which can cause significant political loss as well.  When an issue becomes popular almost
    everyone wants to have input on it, which makes is almost impossible to not compromise.

    The political stream flows with its own dynamics and rules.  Politician believe they can sense changes in
    the political stream which helps them to make decisions.  Turnover has a large effect on the agendas.
    When an item is on the agenda, the forces begin to have input trying to shape the policy to their
    advantage.  The impact on the agenda is not by any means control over the alternatives or outcomes.

    Chap. 8:
    The Policy Window and Joining Streams.
    (Geoff Warren, 2002)
    (Carrie McDonough, 2000 is below)

    -The Policy window is an opportunity for advocates to push their pet solutions, or to push attention to their special problems.  A problem is recognized, a solution is developed and available in the policy community, a political change makes it the right time for policy change, and potential constraints are not severe.

    What are Policy Windows and why do they open?
    -Windows open in policy systems.  The opportunities for action, on given initiatives, present themselves and stay open for short periods.
    The participants must take advantage or wait for another window.
    Policy windows happen when separate streams come together.
    *governmental agenda- list of subjects to which people in and around government are paying serious attention.
    *decision agenda- proposals moved into position for legislative enactment or under review for a decision.

    -Decision agenda does not always mean enactment or favorable bureaucratic decision.  Some items moved ahead of others because they stand a decent chance of enactment.  Also, without window some items never rise on the agenda because advocates conclude it isn’t worth their time to invest in them.  They want them to bear fruit.  Also no bargaining when no policy window.  Instead stake out extreme position early, then bargain when window opens.
    *EX- Lyndon Johnson in control of House, Large majority of Liberal Democrats in House, Medicare/Medicaid passed even though mostly used by the old (where the healthcare would go most used and who would die soon
    making the recent healthcare paid for useless), was passed because was high on national agenda and congress new that it would pass.

    -Windows open because....
    Change in the political stream(change in administration, a shift in national mood, a shift in the partisan or ideological distribution of seats in Congress) or because a new problem catches the attention of government officials.
    -Window closes because....
    Participants feel they have addressed the problem, they fail to get action, events that opened window may pass from the scene, personnel may change again, there is no available alternative or solution.

    -predicting policy window is not simple. Some features define a window
    ( change of administration, a renewal, or imminent collapse of a major sector of the economy).  But policy windows are often missestimated  or misperceived.
    *EX- 1977-78, Senator Kennedy and organized labor think open policy window for National Health Insurance proposals.  Carter strongly and publicly committed to NHI and there is a majority of Democrats in Congress.  They believed it wise to push quickly because policy window might not open again for long time.  Others opposed..... “It’s not going anywhere, so why spend time on it”.... “No way to finance it and no public demand”....The window closed if it was ever open and there was no NHI.

    -Coupling is an important idea.  Solutions float around government, searching for problems to become attached to or political events that increase their likely hood of adoption.  Proposals are constantly in the policy stream, but then suddenly they become elevated on the governmental agenda because they can be seen as solutions to a pressing
    problem or because  politicians find their sponsorship expedient.

    -If a problem is pressing, are looking for a theme for their administration, or cast about for proposals that will serve their reelection or other purposes...problem window.
    -Political window....a change of administration, a shift in National Mood, an influx of new members of congress.

    *policy entrepreneurs- advocates who are willing to invest their resources to promote a position in return for anticipated future gain....material, purposive, or solitary benefits.

    -Policy entrepreneurs are linked with coupling because they often grasp the solutions and tie them with the problems or play a heavy part in the coupling process.

    Chap. 8:
    Chapter 8: Policy Window and Joining Streams
    By: Sierra R. Turner, 2004

    *Kingdon’s multiple streams model offers a theoretical framework for analyzing and emphasizing the process of problem definition, agenda setting, and selection of policy alternatives. Kingdon does this by conducting a four year study based on hundreds of interviews with policy actors.

    *The central feature of Kingdon’s model is the notion of three streams flowing through the policy system and consisting of problems, policies, and politics.

    *The problem stream contains information about policy problems. Information comes from sources such as indicators, dramatic events or crises, and feedback from existing programs. Many actors in the media and government are constantly gathering information on conditions that may represent problems. These actors seek to identify the existence of conditions, potential consequences of conditions, and trends in conditions over time. Kingdon also points out the fact that these studies are not generally used to determine whether or not a problem exists, but rather to examine the magnitude of, or changes in, an already existing problem. Finally, according to Kingdon, problems can be illuminated through feedback which comes from systematic monitoring of programs, complaints, and casework, and through the daily bureaucratic administration of programs.

    *Kingdon referred to the policy stream as a “policy primeval soup” in which a process similar to natural selection determines which ideas survive and which fade. Actors in the policy community generate and discuss ideas for policy change: these ideas evolve over time. The viability of a policy proposal depends on its technical feasibility, cost, public, and political support, and the prevailing value choices in the associated society. Most of the policy ideas that survive are not new; rather they are mutations or recombinations of alternatives floating in the soup. When ideas meet certain criteria, they are more likely to survive. Kingdon argues that the end result must be realistic and compatible with individual or socially held values.

    *The last stream is referred to as being political. Unlike the other streams this stream is independent of the problem and policy streams and includes thing like “public mood, pressure group campaigns, election results, partisan or ideological distributions in Congress, and changes of administration”.

    *Kingdon also goes on to describe what he calls a policy window. According to Kingdon a policy window is “an opportunity for advocates of proposals to push their pet solutions or to push attention to their special problems”. The problem and political streams provide policy window openings. When problems come to the forefront trough indicators, crises, or feedback, and when the political stream opens due to national mood swings or administrative turnover, policy windows open, and policy entrepreneurs must take advantage of the opportunity.

    * Policy change is likely when a problem is widely recognized, a solution is either swiftly developed or is already available, and the politics are favorable. Policy change is unlikely if the problem goes unrecognized, or if a solution is lacking, or if the politics are unfavorable.

    The Policy Window and Joining Streams.
    (Carrie McDonough, 2000)

    -policy window is an opportunity for advocates of proposals to push pet
    solutions or to push attention to their special problems

    - when issues aren’t hot, advocates are extreme; when issue becomes prominent, advocates become more flexible--compromising to stay active

    - open due to--change in administration, political turnover, nat’al mood shifts
    - close due to--address problem, fail to get action, opening event passed, change in personnel, no available alternative
    - timing is important to get policy through
    - "solutions float around in and near government searching for problems to which to become attached or political events that increase their possibility of adoption"
    - advocates hook solutions onto the problem of the moment or push them at a good time in the political stream

    - two types--problem and political windows
    problem--pressing, need immediate solution
    political--theme of administration

    - seizing opportunities--" Accidents are unfortunate, but you do get more money for facilities when they happen"
    -policy entrepreneurs-put problems & solutions together from stream through window
    - must have: ability to be heard, political connections; persistent
    - advocate proposals but they act as brokers, negotiating & making couplings
    - smaller issues can come up when big ones are not in forefront--education, taxes,...
    -issues must pass through bottleneck to get noticed

    -" Government does not come to conclusions. It stumbles into paradoxical situations that force it to move one way or another. There are social forces that you can identify, but what comes out of them is just accident."

    - spillovers--one window allows other issues to come through
    - est. principle for later decisions
    - spillover to adjacent areas--airline regulation to train and auto

    Why do policies make agenda?
    Kingdon's 3 streams:
    • info
    • indicators
    • crises
    • feedback
    • media
    • government
    • administration
    • studies
    • primeval soup
    • survival
    • communities of experts
    • ideas evolve
    • feasible?
    • cost?
    • values?
    (independent stream)
    • public mood
    • group pressure
    • congress
    • presidency
    • campaigns
    • elections
    • advocates >>
    • crises >>
    • feedback >>
  • >> WINDOW for entrepreneurs 
  • to join streams
  • briefly open


    >> spillovers to other policies
    >> e.g. deregulation to other sectors

    Chap. 9:
    Wrapping Things Up

    Chap. 10: Further Reflections
    (Carrie McDonough, 2000)

    -using recent events as examples of concepts developed on book
    - Reagan Budget in 1981

    Reagan elected, Rep. gain majority in Senate, and gain 33 seats in House stream change to right, window open for conservative policy adm. ready to propose initiatives, stream produce initiatives
    problem in economy perceived
    House and Senate pass
    - Tax Reform Act 1986 taxpayer revolt
    revenue shortfall
    unfair taxation
    Reps and Dems form proposals
    1984 Sec of Treasury and few others reform proposal
    after two revisions, produce Tax Reform Act 1986
    -Clinton’s Health Care Reform Act of 1993 agenda was problem driven
    problems recognized, politics tolerated action, hang up in policy stream
    -problems are historically contingent--past effects present

    -Policy Primeval Soup--policy development is evolutionary, deny sharp ups and downs
    -proposals developed for Problem A can be transferred to solve Problem B
    -policy and political streams are different \ involve different people, bec/ different preoccupations