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Edited by Nikolaos Zahariadis

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Christoffer Green-Pedersen and Sebastiaan Princen

Punctuated equilibrium theory (PET) is one of the most prominent approaches in the current agenda-setting literature. Having started as an attempt to explain specific instances of agenda formation and policy change in the United States, PET has evolved into a general theory of political decision-making, which has been applied in a large variety of contexts and states. In this way, it has moved away from agenda-setting as a specific ‘stage’ of the policy process towards an understanding of the role of attention in political processes more generally. This chapter outlines the development of PET over time, presents its major claims and contributions, discusses the main debates surrounding it, and sketches an agenda for future research.

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Paul Cairney and Nikolaos Zahariadis

John Kingdon’s multiple streams analysis (MSA) reminds us that the exciting world of short-term, unstable, high-profile agenda setting is tempered by long-term, continuous processes going on behind the scenes. Shifts of public, media and policymaker attention to a new problem can be dramatic, but policy may only change dramatically when policymakers have the willingness and ability to solve it. We take this agenda forward by describing MSA’s main concepts, considering the extent to which its ‘universal’ insights apply to any study of agenda setting, comparing its original application in the federal US with the many ways in which it has been applied in new arenas, and considering the extent to which this flexibility comes at a cost: is it difficult to ‘operationalize’ MSA, to move beyond a flexible metaphor and identify, precisely, the meaning and causal effect of its main elements?

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Holly L. Peterson and Michael D. Jones

This chapter situates the narrative policy framework (NPF) within the agenda setting literature. Our central argument is that because the NPF’s theoretical foundations are—in part—derivative of the agenda setting literature and because the NPF also seeks to examine similar phenomena as the agenda setting literature, an intersection between the two offers fertile theoretical ground for empirical exploration. In making our case, this chapter first provides a brief description of the NPF. Next, we situate the NPF within the agenda setting literature by focusing on the intersection of the NPF’s theoretical components with agenda setting concepts including information processing, attention, problem definition, power, policy monopolies, policy communities, non-decisions, venue shopping, policy entrepreneurs, and institutions. Propositions are provided at each step of explanation. Lastly, research ideas and implications are explored.

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Sabine Saurugger

Agenda setting and constructivism have established a very close relationship since the first studies on the transformation of an issue into a problem at the beginning of the 20th century. Why a problem becomes a problem is a complex process in which ideas and cognitive frames play a crucial role. Instead of studying the characteristics of actors participating in the agenda-setting process or the nature of the difficulties themselves – whether they are serious or mild, new or recurring, short-term or long-term – constructivist approaches concentrate on the framing of information as the crucial variable that explains why an issue makes it onto the political agenda. The aim of this chapter is to analyse the intimate, but very often implicit, relationship between constructivism and agenda setting. In the first section, the chapter presents the major claims and developments of constructivism with regard to the agenda-setting process in policy studies. In the second section, the chapter outlines the main controversies and shows how constructivism has tried to answer the limitations of other approaches in the analysis of the agenda-setting process. The third and final section develops a series of issues that might be addressed in possible research agendas, anticipating future developments.

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Peter Van Aelst and Stefaan Walgrave

Does the mass media exert an influence on the political agenda? Or, in other words, does news coverage lead to more subsequent political attention for the issues that were covered? This is the basic question guiding this chapter. Since the 1970s it has inspired an increasing group of scholars interested in the influence of the media on politics. During the last ten years (2005–2015), the number of studies on the media and the political agenda has expanded considerably; we can identify more than thirty studies during this time period that deal with the media’s political agenda-setting power. Based on a review of these studies we conclude that there is now ample and recent evidence that the media does affect the political agenda in many countries. There is more research in more countries, the data used are richer, and more contingencies have been investigated in greater detail.