One of the hallmarks of the Policy & Politics journal, which has been consistent across its 49 years of publishing, has been to push the boundaries of conventional wisdom and not take things at face value in developing our understanding of policymaking. Across diverse locations and contexts and employing a range of different methods, the journal is known for showcasing incisive analyses of the policy world which foreground the politics that underpin policy making. The three articles chosen for this quarter’s highlights are no exception as each, in different ways, push the boundaries presenting results that often challenge the prevailing view in their fields. Continue reading Policy & Politics Highlights collection August – October 2021→
The UK Government’s Alcohol Strategy (GAS), published in March 2012, unexpectedly included a commitment to introduce minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol in England, following the adoption of similar measures by the Scottish Government. Yet just 16 months later, the introduction of MUP was placed on hold indefinitely. Our recent article published in Policy and Politics seeks to explain how and why MUP came so unexpectedly onto the policy agenda in England, before disappearing just as suddenly, and what this tells us about the evolving political dynamics of post-devolution and post-Brexit Britain.
In Scotland, MUP passed into law at the second attempt in 2012 and came into force in 2018 following a six-year legal battle with the Scotch Whisky Association and other industry actors. The emergence of MUP as a viable policy option was, however, a ‘cross-border’ process with developments in Scotland inextricably linked to those ‘down South’, particularly the support for, and background work on, alcohol pricing within the Department of Health. Following its adoption in Scotland, a ’policy window’ opening in which MUP came onto the policy agenda in England also. However, this proved to be short lived. Our article argues that the success of MUP in Scotland and its failure in England can largely be explained in terms of the differing levels of political commitment to the policy in each context. Continue reading How minimum unit pricing for alcohol almost happened in England and what this says about the political dynamic of the UK→
There are many ways that people relate to their government. People may vote for their formal representatives through elections. Through referendums and initiatives, people can vote directly to shape public policy. More indirect ways include through informal representation via political parties or interest groups and associations.
This blog addresses another extremely important way to relate government via “advocacy coalitions.”Advocacy coalitions are alliances of people around a shared policy goal. People associated with the same advocacy coalition have similar ideologies and worldviews and wish to change a given policy (concerning health, environmental, or many other issues) in the same direction. Continue reading What are advocacy coalitions and why do they matter?→
An extended version of this blog post was originally published on Discover Society.
From the number of drug overdoses to annual average temperatures, public transportation ridership rates to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), government is inundated with data documenting social problems. In theory, these statistics should lead to more informed decision making. In practice, they are heavily politicized. Organized interests compete to ensure that their preferred statistic is adopted as the preferred measure of a given policy problem, a testament to these so-called “problem indicators” are important determinants of policy maker attention.
Virtually every major theory of policy making suggests indicators and other forms of information play an important role in stimulating issue attention and provoking policy maker action. My recent paper, “Indicators, agendas, and stream: Analysing the Politics of Preparedness,” applies the Multiple Streams Framework (MSF), which argues policy change is facilitated by the coupling of three distinct streams: (1) the problem stream, which consists of the various social issues competing for policy maker attention; (2) the policy stream, which encompasses the various policies and programs designed to address items in the problem stream; and (3) the politics stream, which broadly describes the current political environment, including trends in public opinion as well as the composition of government. Coupling is aided by a policy entrepreneur or an individual or organization willing to invest considerable amounts of time and energy to secure policy change. Once the three streams are coupled, a policy window is opened providing organized interests with an opportunity to push their pet issues onto the policy agenda and, ideally, secure policy change.Continue reading Data Matters…Sometimes: Revisiting the Connection between Problem Indicators and Policy Maker Attention→