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CAS PO 331- Midterm Exam Guide - Comprehensive Notes for the exam ( 41 pages long!)


Department
Political Science
Course Code
CAS PO 331
Professor
Kate Krimmel
Study Guide
Midterm

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BU
CAS PO 331
MIDTERM EXAM
STUDY GUIDE

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THEORIES OF THE POLICY PROCESS
Sabatier, Paul A. Theories of the Policy Process. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Chapter 1: The Need for Better Theories by Paul Sabatier
I. Simplifying a Complex world with theories and frameworks
The policy process is enormously complex:
1) involving 100s of actors
2) sometimes spanning decades
3) involving dozens of different programs in any specific policy domain (i.e., pollution) over
multiple levels of government (local, state, federal)
4) involving policy debates that are often quite technical
5) involving deeply held values and interests
A policy analyst must find a way to simplify the process if there is ever a hope to understand it.
How is this done? Through a set of presuppositions (that later can be described as conceptual
frameworks or theories).
These set of presuppositions help in 1) figuring out what to look for and 2) how to classify or
categorize the information
For example, institutional rational choice tells us to look at institutions, individual actors and
how they strategically maneuver institutional rules to pursue self-interested goals.
How do we develop these presuppositions?
1) common sense: via experience we can set up assumptions and expectations
2) science: developing a set of propositions and relationships via a public method of deata
collection and analysis and clearly defining the concepts and logically connecting them.
The scientific method is considered superior because it is more open and provides a method that
produces propositions that are “clear enough to be proven wrong” (note key term: empirically
falsifiable) and is designed to be self-consciously, error seeking, and thus self-correcting.
Terminology:
Conceptual Framework: a set of variables and description of how they are related used to
account for a phenomena.
Theory: A theory provides a “denser” and more logically coherent set of relationships.
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Model: A representation of a specific situation. It is usually much more narrower in scope than a
theory but more precise in its assuptions.
What is a good theory: 1) scientific (open, clear, well-defined, give rise to falsifiable
hypotheses); 2) should be subject to recent use and empirical testing; 3) be a positive theory
(explain something), not just normative (judging something); 4) should address a broad range of
factors considered important to political scientists.
II. Theoretical Frameworks of the Policy Process
The book discusses 7 conceptual frameworks:
1. The Stages Heuristic: divides the policy process into stages (agenda setting, policy formation,
legitimation, implementation, evaluation, etc.). Popular in the 1970s and early 80s, but is now
considered to lack a causal theoretical bases and overly simplistic and even inaccurate.
2. Institutional Rational Choice: how institutional rules alter the behavior of rational and strategic
actors pursuing self-interested goals. Arguably the most developed and most widely used in the
U.S.
3. The Multiple-Streams Framework: Views the policy process as composed of three streams of
actors and processes: a problem stream (consisting of problems and their proponents); a policy
stream (containing a variety of policy solutions and their proponents); and a politics stream
(consisting of public officials and elections). These streams often operate independently except
during “windows of opportunities” when some or all of the streams may intersect (and cause
substantial policy change).
4. Punctuated-Equilibrium: policy process tends to feature long periods of incremental change
punctuated by brief periods of major policy change. The latter come about when opponents
manage to fashion a new “policy image or images” and exploit the multiple policy venues of the
U.S. (courts, legislatures, executives at the local ,state and federal level.
5. The Advocacy Coalition Framework: focuses on the interaction of advocacy coalitions (each
consisting of actors from a variety of institutions who share a set of policy beliefs). Policy
change is a product of the competition and interaction between these coalitions.
6. Policy Diffusion Framework: developed to explain variation in the adoption of specific policy
innovations, such as the lottery, across political jurisdictions.
7. The Funnel of Causality and other Frameworks in Large-N Comparative Studies: Describes a
set of studies that use a variety of variables (institutional, socioeconomic, public opinion) to
explain variation in policy outcomes across a large number of states.
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