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Public Policy Analysis: Agenda Setting




Admissions requirements

Decision-Making Processes or written permission of convener and instructor. Those without prerequisites should e-mail the instructor with information stating their motivation for taking the course and any previous courses taken that might serve to provide a foundation for this course before course registration ends. Comparative Party Systems may also form a sufficient prerequisite. Please contact course instructor.


When discussing policy making or policy making failures, spectators often note that important global challenges like climate change, human rights abuses, or economic inequality do not seems to be treated with the same urgency as other problems. Often, analysts respond to such questions with arguments pointing to a lack of resolve or desire on the part of policy makers to address these key challenges; ergo treating the problem as one of simply unenlightened preferences on the part of policy makers or citizens.

An alternative perspective looks harder at how different issues attract and sustain policy attention – the study of agenda setting –, which must presages any preference driven policy choice by political elites.

This more complicated story forces us to ask to what extent policy problems are particularly challenging due to structural issues or factors related to the policy issue itself, and to what extent inaction or hyperactivity is a function of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ preference and desires on the part of decision-makers. Understanding how policy-making agendas are set in the public, the media, and ultimately in important decision-making institutions, and how and why different problems face particular challenges rising to prominence is the first and arguably most vital step to effective action on these issues.

This 3rd year seminar will engage these issues that dominate a currently expanding and dynamic domain of communication science, political science and public policy scholarship and require students to integrate the lessons of this literature into a unique self-guided research/advocacy paper.

Course objectives

  • Develop a more sophisticated understanding of policy issues and how they differ from one another.

  • Analyze the complexity and challenges involved in governing societies with as many policy demands as citizens but with finite decision-making resources in the form of time and attention.

  • Create a small data-driven independent project tacking theoretical or purely empirical questions in the domain of public policy making.

  • Synthesize and communicate clearly information independently in a manner informative and educational to specialist and non-specialist peers.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

This course will be primarily seminar-based, with short lectures (no longer than 30 minutes on average), with student preparation for classroom discussion forming a core component of the class.

Students are highly recommended to form discussion groups outside of class to review and discuss the readings.


  • 20% Participation assessed continually through participation in seminar and structured activities

  • 30% (15% each) Two reaction papers to a session’s reading(s) of 1500 words for one session each selected at the beginning of the course.

  • 20% A data project due by the end of Week 6

  • 30% (15% each) Final Research Essay/Project Due at the end of Week 8


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

Students will be required to read substantial portions of the following texts, and should be acquired (note that students in prior years have acquired the same books when considering where to acquire copies):

Schattsneider, E. E. 1975. The Semisovereign People: A Realist’s View of Democracy in America. Brooks Cole

Dearing, James W. and Everett M. Rogers. 1997. Agenda Setting. Sage

Baumgartner, Frank R., Suzanna L. De Boef, and Amber E. Boydstun. 2008. The Decline of the Death Penalty and the Discovery of Innocence. Cambridge University Press.

Please contact Instructor for details on further texts to be purchased after enrolling in this course.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr. Brandon Zicha,


Students will receive reading for the first meeting via blackboard after enrolling. Please e-mail the instructor If you have not heard from the instructor as the first session approaches so that he may personally send them to you.