The dynamics of foreign policy agenda setting Academic Article uri icon


  • Theoretical and empirical work on public policy agenda setting has ignored foreign policy. We develop a theory of foreign policy agenda setting and test the implications using time-series vector autoregression and Box-Tiao (1975) impact assessment methods. We theorize an economy of attention to foreign policy issues driven by issue inertia, events external to U.S. domestic institutions, as well as systemic attention to particular issues. We also theorize that the economy of attention is affected by a law of scarcity and the rise and fall of events in competing issue areas. Using measures of presidential and media attention to the Soviet Union, Arab-Israeli conflict, and Bosnian conflict, we show that presidential and media attentions respond to issue inertia and exogenous events in both primary and competing issue areas. Media attention also affects presidential attention, but the president does not affect issue attention by the media.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 6

author list (cited authors)

  • Wood, B. D., & Peake, J. S.

citation count

  • 191

complete list of authors

  • Wood, BD||Peake, JS

publication date

  • March 1998