PPA 503 – The Public Policy-Making Process Lecture 5b - Emergency Management and Agenda Setting
A Framework for Studying Focusing Events • Defining potential focusing events. • An event that is sudden, with little or now warning. • An event that is generally rare, and as a consequence is unpredictable and unplanned. • An event that affects a large number of people. • The public and the most informed members of the policy community learn of a potential focusing event virtually simultaneously. • The key element is their suddenness and fixed point in time. • Focusing events give an advantage to change-oriented groups.
A Framework for Studying Focusing Events • Phase 1: The news media: immediate reaction to focusing events. • Scope of the event – the people affected. • The harms are visible and highly tangible. • Rarity, novelty, and dramatic nature of the event.
A Framework for Studying Focusing Events • Phase 2: Political reactions to events and their influence on the institutional agenda. • The media reacts immediately and moves on. • The political system responds more slowly, but creates longer reactions because of competition among groups and policy entrepreneurs over the interpretation of the event.
A Framework for Studying Focusing Events • Phase 2 (contd.). • Elements producing increased attention and institutional agenda setting. • News coverage. • Mobilization of pro-change forces in direct response to the event, followed by counter-mobilization by status quo groups. Especially useful to individuals and groups that are part of weak advocacy coalitions. • Scope of the event. • The more people affected, the more elected officials who demand action.
A Framework for Studying Focusing Events • Policy domain characteristics and their influence on agenda setting. • The extent of policy community organization. • Focusing events will produce more activity in more organized communities. • Unless event is highly visible and the community is polarized. • The substance of the debate is also important.
A Framework for Studying Focusing Events • Policy domain characteristics and their influence on agenda setting (contd.). • Public participation or interest in policy making. • The greater the public interest and participation, the more influence focusing events will have on agenda setting. • Natural disasters tend to be low salience, except in catastrophic cases.
A Framework for Studying Focusing Events • Policy domain characteristics and their influence on agenda setting (contd.). • Event visibility and the aggregation of harms. • The more graphic the damage, and the more obvious the human impact, the more likely the focusing event will have influence on the agenda.
Natural Disasters as Focusing Events • Natural disasters act as focusing events, influencing the news and the congressional agenda. • However, the effects vary across disaster domains.
Natural Disasters as Focusing Events • Earthquakes reflect internal mobilization by a few policy entrepreneurs. Hurricanes produce external mobilization because no core group of entrepreneurs exists. • In both domains, they must wait for a disaster to advance their agenda, to get people to mitigate and prepare for disaster. • The disaster itself triggers agenda activity. • Most of the focus after a disaster is on relief, rather than prevention (mitigation and preparedness). • The policies that political actor propose may not reflect the recommendations of the experts. • This is especially the case if the policy domain has no core of experts.
Natural Disasters as Focusing Events • Conclusions. • No two natural disaster domains are identical. They differ in geographical areas, frequency and periodicity, and the nature of the policy communities. • The existence of a professional community can trigger a greater focus on prevention than currently occurs.