Understanding Local Policymaking: Policy Elites' Perceptions of Local Agenda Setting and Alternative Policy Selection Academic Article uri icon


  • Despite the increasing interest in policy agenda research in recent years, very few studies have focused their attention on the relevant processes at the local level. Drawing on agenda-setting research, particularly Kingdon's multiple-streams framework, this study examines the key forces and factors, as well as their relative importance, in local agenda setting, problem identification, and alternative policy selection. Data are collected from 271 in-depth interviews with local policy stakeholders in three U.S. Gulf Coast areas. Interview materials are coded using a protocol focused on capturing stakeholders' perceptions of the key elements and forces in local policy dynamics. Our interview data indicate that (i) governmental actors and various interest groups have relatively more influence in shaping local agendas than the general public, experts, and election-related actors, while the mass media are found to have little agenda-setting power in local policy processes; (ii) budgetary consideration and various forms of feedback to local government are more important than objective problem indicators and focusing events in setting local policy priorities; (iii) policy alternatives that are deemed compatible with existing policies and regulations are more likely to be selected than those relying on other criteria such as technical feasibility, value acceptability, and future constraints; and (iv) consensus and coalition building is perceived as the most important political factor in local policy processes. Limitations of our study and recommendations for future research are discussed in the concluding section. 2010 Policy Studies Organization.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Liu, X., Lindquist, E., Vedlitz, A., & Vincent, K.

citation count

  • 65

complete list of authors

  • Liu, Xinsheng||Lindquist, Eric||Vedlitz, Arnold||Vincent, Kenneth

publication date

  • January 2010