Kingdon Presentation

Harben Porter
PA 715
November 5th, 2012
• Policy ideas travel through three streams: the problem stream, policy stream
and politics stream.
• As ideas are floated around specialist communities, they mutate, fragment and
recombine with other problems and solutions, at times for years on end.
• The three steams flow independently from each other, operating in
disconnectedness and organized anarchy until they are joined together to
capitalize on a “policy open window.”
Agenda Setting
“The list of subjects or problems to which governmental officials (visible
participants), and people outside of government closely associated with
those officials (hidden participants), pay some serious attention at any
given time” (Kingdon 2010, 3).
Subjects receiving general awareness
Decision Making:
Front-burner issues up for active decision
Issues and Alternatives
 Broad
areas of concern
Specific, practical ideas that could be implemented
Example: Concern over rising cost of medical care versus regulating hospital
Visible Participants
Broad Agenda Items
 President
 Congress
 Political Appointees
 Interest Groups
Hidden Participants
Alternative Specification
Interest Groups
Media, Elections, Public Opinion
Indirect influence over broad agenda items and alternative specification
The Garbage Can Model
Cohen, March, Olsen 1972, Admin. Science Quarterly
Problems, alternatives and other issues are developed
simultaneously. When a choice opportunity arises, visible and
hidden players add various ideas and levels of participation
into the choice opportunity garbage can. A decision is made
on these inputs.
The Federal Government is more akin to the garbage can
model than the rational decision making or incremental models.
The Three Streams
The Problem Stream
Problem Identification:
Requires the evolution from condition to problem
 Often tied to budget indicators
 Focusing events
 Crises
 Symbols
 Feedback procedures (reports and reviews)
 Dominated by policy entrepreneurs
The Policies Stream
Specialists, academics, special interests and bureaucrats wield their expertise to test
and articulate details of a given problem.
Specialists float ideas, hold hearings and draft proposals which then mutate,
fragment and recombine in a policy primeval soup.
Policy entrepreneurs push proposals and encouraging the softening-up process to
familiarize policy communities with their ideas.
“Technical feasibility, congruence with the values of community members, and the
anticipation of future constraints, including a budget constraint, public acceptability,
and politician's receptivity” are needed for survival.
Ideas are softened, transformed, thrown out and then born to new life in tandem
with a separate but congruent idea to be reintroduced to the agenda setting
The Political Stream
Dominated by visible members of government
More concerned with major issues than alternatives
Affected by national mood, elections, partisan or
ideological distributions in congress, interest group
pressures and changes in administration
Joining the Streams and the Open Window
Policy open windows are infrequent and fleeting
They require policy entrepreneur readiness
Windows open due to a change in the political stream, most often with the
introduction of a new administration or turnover in congress
To capitalize on an open window, all three streams must come together in a critical
moment of problem recognition, solution development and community readiness
The administration must be receptive to the policy initiative, the alternatives must be
adequately known throughout the policy stream, and the solutions must be congruous
to the ripe political climate
Provided clarity to a convoluted series of processes
Too little influence attributed to media, coalitions
and individuals
Verbose, chart heavy
Created a context for understanding the evolution
of national policy issues such as health care reform
Generalizing Multiple Streams Theory
National: The Affordable
Care Act
State: Reading Wars
of the 1990s
Activity and Discussion
Plastic Bag Law – Multiple Parents Bill – Online Impersonation Law
Does Kingdon’s 28 year-old theory of agenda setting hold up today? Analyze one of
the three California cases below in the context of Kingdon’s multiple-streams theory.
To Consider:
 Consider general awareness and issue “floating.”
 Consider public opinion, participant influence and administration receptivity.
To Answer:
 Where along the decision agenda process is your case? How did it get there?
 What visible or hidden players can you identify?
 Was the issue an alternative to a larger policy? Did it couple with other policy
issues that you can think of?
 Was there a focusing event? Did magnitude affect the policy? Feedback? Budget?
 What do you think Kingdon would attribute to the outcome of your case?
 Are there any factors present in your case that Kingdon does not touch on?
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