Montesquieu Institute: from science to society

Effects of the Core Functions of Government on the Diversity of Executive Agendas

Friday, June 17 2011, 16:39

Will Jennings, Shaun Bevan, Arco Timmermans, Gerard Breeman, Sylvain Brouard, Laura Chaqués-Bonafont, Christoffer Green-Pedersen, Peter John, Peter B. Mortensen, and Anna M. Palau.

The distribution of attention across issues is of fundamental importance to the political agenda and outputs of government. This article presents an issue-based theory of the diversity of governing agendas where the core functions of government—defense, international affairs, the economy, government operations, and the rule of law—are prioritized ahead of all other issues. It undertakes comparative analysis of issue diversity of the executive agenda of several European countries and the United States over the post-war period. The results offer strong evidence of the limiting effect of core issues—the economy, government operations, defense, and international affairs—on agenda diversity. This suggests not only that some issues receive more attention than others but also that some issues are attended to only at times when the agenda is more diverse. When core functions of government are high on the agenda, executives pursue a less diverse agenda—focusing the majority of their attention on fewer issues. Some issues are more equal than others in executive agenda setting.

Keywords

comparative public policy, agenda setting, executive speeches, policy dynamics

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In Augustus 2011, this article will be published in print.