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The Politics of Attention: How Government Prioritizes Problems / Edition 1

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Overview


On any given day, policymakers are required to address a multitude of problems and make decisions about a variety of issues, from the economy and education to health care and defense. This has been true for years, but until now no studies have been conducted on how politicians manage the flood of information from a wide range of sources. How do they interpret and respond to such inundation? Which issues do they pay attention to and why? Bryan D. Jones and Frank R. Baumgartner answer these questions on decision-making processes and prioritization in The Politics of Attention.

Analyzing fifty years of data, Jones and Baumgartner's book is the first study of American politics based on a new information-processing perspective. The authors bring together the allocation of attention and the operation of governing institutions into a single model that traces public policies, public and media attention to them, and governmental decisions across multiple institutions. 

The Politics of Attention offers a groundbreaking approach to American politics based on the responses of policymakers to the flow of information. It asks how the system solves, or fails to solve, problems rather than looking to how individual preferences are realized through political action.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice
An important and timely work.

— M. C. Price, Texas A&M University

Significance
This excellent book provides an enlightening glimpse into and important topic: how information is used in politics and how it is prioritised. . . . It is provocative, challenging and insightful, making a valuable contribution to politics and constitutional law.

— Ya-Hui Kuo

Political Science Quarterly
The book illustrates the continuing development of the punctuated equilibrium model of policy change and the diversity of issues that the model provides leverage in explaining.

— Scott E. Robinson

Perspectives on Politics
Without a doubt, this book will be very useful in graduate seminars. It touches on many of the biggest ideas in social science, ranging from theories of individual behavior and rationality, to 'middle level' phenomena like political organizations, to the highest level, institutions and policy change. It is also written beautifully.

— Paul E. Johnson

James Stimson
“Jones and Baumgartner have become a genre, the leading scholars of a science of policymaking. This is a major scholarly achievement.”--James Stimson, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Lawrence C. Dodd
The Politics of Attention moves the classic debate over the character and value of democratic politics to new and more solid ground. In recognizing that political elites are subject to limited attention spans and constrained information-processing, just as are mass citizens, Jones and Baumgartner argue that the great attraction of representative democracy is the way in which it corrects for the limitations of both elites and mass electorates. With these arguments and supportive data, this pioneering book provides perhaps the most persuasive explanation yet of the adaptive resilience of pluralist democracies. The result is a landmark contribution to research on elite decision-making, to the study of policy evolution in postwar America, and to democratic theory.”--Lawrence C. Dodd, University of Florida
John Padgett
“A terrific book. Based on a decade of meticulous data collection, The Politics of Attention descriptively presents a macroscopic overview of fifty years of American policy development in congressional agenda formation and decision making. The payoff of this impressive empirical exercise is a fresh focus on and understanding of policy punctuations.”--John Padgett, University of Chicago
Choice - M. C. Price

"An important and timely work."
Significance - Ya-Hui Kuo

"This excellent book provides an enlightening glimpse into and important topic: how information is used in politics and how it is prioritised. . . . It is provocative, challenging and insightful, making a valuable contribution to politics and constitutional law."
Political Science Quarterly - Scott E. Robinson

"The book illustrates the continuing development of the punctuated equilibrium model of policy change and the diversity of issues that the model provides leverage in explaining."
Perspectives on Politics - Paul E. Johnson

"Without a doubt, this book will be very useful in graduate seminars. It touches on many of the biggest ideas in social science, ranging from theories of individual behavior and rationality, to 'middle level' phenomena like political organizations, to the highest level, institutions and policy change. It is also written beautifully."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226406534
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 10/26/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author


Bryan D. Jones is the Donald R. Matthews Distinguished Professor of American Politics and director of the Center for American Politics and Public Policy at the University of Washington. Frank R. Baumgartner is Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Pennsylvania State University. They are the authors of the award-winning Agendas and Instability in American Politics and editors of Policy Dynamics, both published by the University of Chicago Press.
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Table of Contents


Preface
1. How Government Processes Information and Prioritizes Problems
Part I - Information and Choice
2. A Behavioral Model of Policy Choice
3. The Intrusion of New Information
Part II - Information Processing and Policy Punctuations
4. "Understandable Complexity" in Policy Choice
5. Incrementalism, Disproportionate Information-Processing, and Outcomes
6. Cognitive Architectures, Institutional Costs, and Fat-Tailed Distributions
7. Policy Punctuations in American Political Institutions
Part III - Signal Detection and the Inefficiencies of Agenda Setting
8. Agenda Setting and Objective Conditions
9. The Inefficiencies of Attention Allocation
10. Representation and Attention
11. Conclusions
Appendixes
References
Index
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