Agenda-setting and framing

Elucidating how certain policy issues get to the top of political agendas - defined here as the set of issues that receive serious attention in a polity (Kingdon, 1995: 3) - has been the object of considerable scholarly attention. Agenda-setting processes are indeed crucial, since they determine which issues are to be dealt with and in what terms. Dynamics of agendasetting have usually been explained in terms of conflict expansion. New issues can make it onto political agendas when the proponents of a given policy frame act as 'advocates' (Baumgartner, 2007) and succeed in extending the conflict to a wider circle of actors, so as to redefine the line between the proponents and opponents of the proposal. In studies of agenda-setting, conflict expansion strategies have usually been understood as an attempt to expand conflict from a narrow circle of experts to the public at large (Schattschneider, 1960: 3).

The key element in conflict expansion processes is the way an issue is defined. The process of framing is therefore central to much of the agenda-setting literature. Whether authors refer to the ability of a frame to create a convincing link between 'problem' and 'solution' (Kingdon, 1995), or to the necessity for the frame to refer to a familiar and tried strategy, or to the heuristics of the frame itself (Kohler-Koch, 2000: 521), the nature of the discourse is taken to matter. Scholars' interest for issue definition is based on the simple assumption that depending on how policy problems are portrayed, or on the qualities of a given 'policy frame' (Schon and Rein, 1994), certain actors get empowered, while others lose control over policy. From the framing perspective, frames 'affect which interests play a role during policy drafting and deliberation and what type of political conflicts and coalitions are likely to emerge as a result' (Daviter, 2007: 654). Studies on framing also point that for new frames to gain ground on political agendas, they need to refer to

'meta-cultural frames' which operate at a broader level (Schon and Rein, 1994). The influence of specific ideas is related to their resonance with broader values, whether they are termed as 'worldviews' (Goldstein, 1993), 'public moods' (Jacobsen, 1995) or 'wider societal concerns' (Rhinard, 2010). Besides the definition of policy issues, agenda-setting studies have also looked at conflict expansion in relation to institutional factors. The institutional and political framework within which polities operate has been conceived as favouring the consideration for some issues while discouraging consideration for others (Bachrach and Baratz, 1962; Schattschneider, 1960). In the EU context, Baumgartner has argued that, 'because of the history of "market integration" as a driving force, terminology associated with harmonisation and free exchange may more often find its way in the policy process' (2007: 485-486). Thus, the rise of issues on political agendas also depends on the availability of institutionally favourable conditions within the political system.

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