Handbook of Public Policy Agenda Setting
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Handbook of Public Policy Agenda Setting

Edited by Nikolaos Zahariadis

Setting the agenda on agenda setting, this Handbook explores how and why private matters become public issues and occasionally government priorities. It provides a comprehensive overview and analysis of the perspectives, individuals, and institutions involved in setting the government’s agenda at subnational, national, and international levels.
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Chapter 6: Multiple streams approach: a flexible metaphor presents an opportunity to operationalize agenda setting processes

Paul Cairney and Nikolaos Zahariadis

Abstract

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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