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Politics and the Policy Process



Policy making is the process through which social problems appear on the public agenda and collective decisions are being made and implemented to address these problems. The contest for political power determines the most important decision-making actors, but there is more to policy making than the competition between political parties. In addition to the impact of political preferences, policy making is driven and constrained by public opinion, by the activities of interest groups, and by the diffusion of policy innovations. The purpose of this course is to introduce the main theoretical and empirical approaches to the study of policy making. The course will provide the students with a theoretically-informed understanding of the policy process and will acquaint them with the empirical generalizations about the impact of various factors on policy change provided by existing political science and public administration literatures. As a result, the course will enhance the students’ skills in translating theoretically-relevant questions into empirical research designs.

Methods of Instruction

A combination of lectures and class discussions of the assigned literature.

Study Material

Articles accessible through the university library system:

Baumgartner, F., Christian, B., Christoffer, G.-P., Bryan, D. J., Peter, B. M., Michiel, N., et al. (2009). Punctuated Equilibrium in Comparative Perspective. American Journal of Political Science, 53(3), 603-620.

Baumgartner, F., De Boef, S., & Boydstun, A. (2008). The Decline of the Death Penalty and the Discovery of Innocence, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Chapters 4 and 5.

Berry, F. S., & Berry, W. D. (1990). State Lottery Adoptions as Policy Innovations: An Event History Analysis. The American Political Science Review, 84(2), 395-415.

Binder, S. A. (1999). The Dynamics of Legislative Gridlock, 1947-96. American Political Science Review, 93(3), 519-533.

Coleman, J. J. (1999). Unified Government, Divided Government, and Party Responsiveness. The American Political Science Review, 93(4), 821-835.

Giannetti, D., & Laver, M. (2005). Policy positions and jobs in the government. European Journal of Political Research, 44(1), 91-120.

Imbeau, L. M., Pétry, F., & Lamari, M. (2001). Left–right party ideology and government policies: A meta–analysis. European Journal of Political Research, 40(1), 1-29.

Jennings, W., & John, P. (2009). The Dynamics of Political Attention: Public Opinion and the Queen’s Speech in the United Kingdom. American Journal of Political Science, 53(4), 838-854.

Kam, C. D., & Simas, E. N. (2010). Risk Orientations and Policy Frames. The Journal of Politics, 72(02), 381-396.

Lax, J. R., & Phillips, J. H. (2012). The Democratic Deficit in the States. American Journal of Political Science, 56(1), 148-166.

Leifeld, P., & Haunss, S. (2012). Political discourse networks and the conflict over software patents in Europe. European Journal of Political Research, 51(3), 382-409.

Shipan, C., & Volden, C. (2008). The mechanisms of policy diffusion. American Journal of Political Science, 52(4), 840-857.

Shipan, C. R., & Volden, C. (2006). Bottom-Up Federalism: The Diffusion of Antismoking Policies from U.S. Cities to States. American Journal of Political Science, 50(4), 825-843.

Toshkov, D. (2011). Public opinion and policy output in the European Union: A lost relationship. European Union Politics, 12(2), 169-191.

Toshkov, D. (2012). Policy Making Beyond Political Ideology: The Adoption of Smoking Bans in Europe. Public Administration, forthcoming.

Tsebelis, G. (1999). Veto players and law production in parliamentary democracies: An empirical analysis. American Political Science Review, 93(3), 591-608.

Walgrave, S., Soroka, S., & Nuytemans, M. (2008). The Mass Media’s Political Agenda-Setting Power: A Longitudinal Analysis of Media, Parliament, and Government in Belgium (1993 to 2000). Comparative Political Studies, 41(6), 814-836.

Wlezien, C. (1995). The Public As Thermostat – Dynamics Of Preferences For Spending. American Journal Of Political Science, 39(4), 981-1000.


The students will be evaluated on the basis of a 10-12 pages empirical research paper. The research paper should apply one of the approaches discussed during the course to a real-world case (or a set of cases) of policy making. The choice of topic would need to be discussed with the instructor and finalized by Week 4, and the research design of the paper and preliminary findings will be presented in the final session of the course.

Thursday 1 November till 22 November, 11.00-13.00 hrs., in SA15 (except 15 November in SA09)
Thursday 29 November, 9.00-11.00 hrs., in SB19
Thursday 6 December, 11.00-13.00 hrs., in SA15
Thursday 13 December, 11.00-13.00 hrs., in 1A37
Thursday 20 December, 11.00-14.00 hrs., in SA15

Entrance Requirements