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Public Opinion, Ideas and Policy Frames

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All-Powerful Leaders?: The Concentration of Power in Modern Executives
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Game Theory and Rational Institutionalism
Indigenous Rights and Institutions
Institutional Architecture: Federalism
Institutional Designs and Paths
Machinery of Government
Media, Framing and Agenda Setting
New Public Management
Parliamentary, Presidential and Decentralized Unitary Systems
Political and Administrative Responsibilities
Political and Administrative Responsibilities
Political Parties and Elections
Probing the Accuracy of Rational Decision Making Models: Alternative Accounts
Public and Para-Public Institutions
Public Institutions, Organizing Principles and Democratic Control
Public Opinion, Ideas and Policy Frames
Representation and Accountability
Representation and Responsiveness
Representation, Accountability and Policy
The Architecture of the Canadian State
The Bureaucracy and Bureaucratic Behaviour
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Who are the Players in the Policy Process?


A Teaching Topic in Democratic Institutions and Policy Process

Public Opinion, Ideas and Policy Frames

This topic considers the extent to which the ideas and ideologies of political actors can influence policy outcomes. It introduces the concept of policy ‘framing’ and discusses the role that the mass media and other actors play in shaping the public’s perception of policy problems and proposed solutions. Students consider the ways in which public opinion surrounding specific issues can be influenced by framing, and how shifts in public opinion influence policy outcomes. This topic aims to separate the effects of political attitudes, public opinion, programmatic ideas, principled beliefs, policy frames, and political ideologies on policy making. It explores how the various kinds of ideas interact with interests. Are policy makers responsive to political attitudes and public opinion or do they shape opinion (Toronto PPG 1001H)?

Core Concepts associated with this Topic: Decline of Deference; Trust in Government; National Mood; Social Democratic Welfare State; Free Market Capitalism; Ideology; Liberalism; Mixed Economy; Neoliberalism; Socialism; Republicanism.

Topic Learning Outcome: Upon mastering this topic, students will be able to describe the major political ideologies that compete for influence in Canada including economic liberalism and democratic socialism. Students will understand the relationship between ideas and political parties, and be able to intelligently discuss the ways in which ideas and interests interact within different political coalitions.

Recommended Reading

Toronto: PPG 1001H The Policy Process

Cillizza, Chris. 2011. “Is the Presidential Bully Pulpit Dead?” The Washington Post blog “The Fix”:

Sides, John. 2011. “What Can Presidential Speeches Do? A Dialogue.” The Monkey Cage:

Cochrane, Christopher. 2010. “Left/Right Ideology and Canadian Politics.” Canadian Journal of Political Science 43, 4: pp. 583-605.

Lakoff , George. 2010. “Why It Matters: How We Frame the Environment.”  Environmental  Communication 4, 1:  pp.  70-81. 12

Kingdon, John W. 1995.  Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies. 2nd ed. New York: Addison Wesley Longman. Chapter 8:  pp.  165-195.

Burstein, Paul. 2003. “The Impact of Public Opinion on Public Policy: A Review and an  Agenda.” Political Research Quarterly  56, 1:  pp.  29-40.

Druckman, James. 2001. “On the Limits of Framing Effects: Who Can Frame?”  Journal of  Politics 63, 4:  pp.  1017-1040. 

Nyhan, Brendan and Jason Reifler. 2010. “When Corrections Fail: The Persistence of Political  Misperceptions.”  Political Behavior 32: 3 pp.  03-330.

Schneider, Anne and Helen Ingram.  1993.  “Social Construction of Target Populations:  Implications for Politics and Policy.”  American Political Science Review 87, 2:  pp.  334-47.

Michigan: PP 510 The Politics of Public Policy

Syllabus Section: Norms

Sikkink, K. and M. Finnemore, “International Norm Dynamics and Political Change,”

International Organization, Vol. 52, no. 4 (Autumn 1998).

Thomas, Ward. “Norms and Security: The Case of International Assassination,” International Security, Vol. 25, no. 1 (Summer 2000).

D. Byman, “Do Targeted Killings Work?” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 85, No. 2.

Alston, UN Study on Targeted Killings (SKIM)

“Rules for Drone Wars: Six Questions for Philip Alston,” Harpers, June 9, 2010

Policy issue: Are ‘Targeted Assassinations’ and Drone Attacks Legal? Moral? Smart?

Carleton: PADM 5115: Introduction to State and Society

Syllabus Section: Classical Liberalism: Liberty, Equality, Property From Feudalism to Liberal Democracy: From the City of God to the rise of man. John Locke Second Treatise on Government on the modern concept of property and the role of the State. Limits of the liberal conception of property.)

Benjamin Constant. The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with that of the Moderns. 1819.

C.B. MacPherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism; Hobbes to Locke. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962. Read Chapter 6, pp. 263-277.

John Locke. Second Treatise of Government. Chapter 5.

US Declaration of Independence

Milton Friedman. “Created Equal”. Free to Choose. 1980: (Vol. 5).

Syllabus Section: Imagined Communities in the New Global Order: Cosmopolitism, civilizations or Multitude

Ulrich Beck. “Cosmopolitanism as Imagined Communities of Global Risk”. American Behavioral Scientist. Vol. 55, 2011.

Samuel Huntington. “The Clash of Civilizations”, Foreign Affairs Vol.72 #3, Summer 1993.

Syllabi Cited

Toronto: PPG 1001H The Policy Process, Winter 2014

Michigan: PP 510 The Politics of Public Policy, Fall 2012

Carleton: PADM 5115: Introduction to State and Society, Winter 2015

Possible Assessment Questions:

  1. Define socialism and economic liberalism.
  2. How do shifts in public opinion influence policy outcomes? Provide one example of an instance in which a shift in public opinion has influenced policy direction and explain how public opinion was mediated through democratic institutions.
  3. Are principled beliefs frequently an important factor in shaping the actions of elected officials? Should they be, or should they rather seek to be maximally responsive to public opinion?

Page created by Ben Eisen; last updated by Sean Goertzen on 23 October 2014.


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