After Disaster: Agenda Setting, Public Policy, and Focusing Events / Edition 1

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Overview

Disasters like earthquakes are known as focusing events -- sudden calamities that cause both citizens and policymakers to pay more attention to a public problem and often to press for solutions. This book, the first comprehensive analysis of these dramatic events, explains how and why some public disasters change political agendas and, ultimately, public policies.

Thomas A. Birkland explores important successes and failures in the policy process by analyzing the political outcomes of four types of events: earthquakes, hurricanes, oil spills, and nuclear accidents. Using this empirical data to go beyond an intuitive understanding of focusing events, he presents a theory of where and when these events will gain attention and how they trigger political reactions. Birkland concludes that different types of disasters result in different kinds of agenda politics. Public outrage over the highly visible damage caused by the Exxon Valdez oil spill, for example, ended a fourteen-year logjam holding back Congressional legislation to regulate oil spill cleanups. On the other hand, the intangible effects of Three Mile Island had less concrete results in a political arena that was already highly polarized.

Integrating a variety of theories on the policy process, including agenda setting, policy communities, advocacy coalitions, the political aspects of the news media, and the use of symbols in political debate, Birkland illuminates the dynamics of event-driven policy activity. As the first extensive study of its kind, this book offers new insights into the policy process.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Explores theoretical and empirical dimensions of the intuitive perception that sudden and catastrophic events can focus public awareness and influence subsequent policy. Discusses agenda setting and the policy process, natural disasters, oil spills, nuclear power plants, advocacy and analysis in policy change, and other topics. Paper edition (unseen), $20.95. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780878406531
  • Publisher: Georgetown University Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/1997
  • Series: American Governance and Public Policy Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.44 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas A. Birkland is the William T. Kretzer Professor of Public Policy in the School of Public and International Affairs at North Carolina State University.

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Table of Contents

List of Selected Abbreviations
Preface
1 Focusing Events, Agenda Setting, and the Policy Process 1
2 A Theory of Focusing Events and Agenda Change 21
3 Natural Disasters as Focusing Events 47
4 Oil Spills as Focusing Events 74
5 Nuclear Power Plant Accidents as Focusing Events 106
6 The Importance of Focusing Events in Policy Making 131
Appendix: Comments on the Method 151
Notes 159
References 163
Index 171
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