Agenda-setting in the states: An institutional analysis
Butler, Kellie Sims
Doctor of Philosophy
Very limited attention is paid to the variegated character of state policy agendas. We simply do not know why state policy agendas vary across the states yet careful inspection reveals vast differences in attentiveness to major issues. In this project I map major characteristics of state policy agendas and develop and test models that account for interstate variation in agenda attention to redistributive issues. I develop a model of state policy agenda formation that integrates the ideological preferences of the political actors across institutions with those of constituents and looks at the conditioning effects of elections and the preferences and the influence of other institutional actors. The analyses also control for the effects of interest organizations and select socio-economic factors. Redistributive "agenda space," defined as the proportion of state policy agendas devoted to redistributive issues out of their total agendas, will serve as the dependent variable in the analysis. The empirical analysis investigates the allocation of agenda attention to redistributive policies (e.g., welfare and education) across all 50 states during the period of 1993--1996. This project demonstrates that state redistributive agendas are a function of both elite and mass preferences conditioned by patterns of inter-institutional competition, electoral contingencies and interest group activity. In addition to the importance of elite and mass preferences, this analysis illustrates the importance of contextual and institutional factors in understanding the attentiveness of state institutions to these issues. This project shows how ideological preferences, political context, institutional settings, and socio-economic factors shape public policy in the American states, influencing the overall redistributive nature of the states.