PLSC 541, Public Policy and Agenda-Setting
Penn State University
Fall Term, 2006, Thursdays 2:30-5:30
Room 236 Pond Building

Prof. Frank Baumgartner
Office: 227 Pond Building
Phone: 863 8978
Web site:
Office hours: Th 1:30-2:30 and by appointment

Read the syllabus

Click on the links below for readings. If the links aren't live that means you have to buy a copy or find it yourself. If you do find a link or a PDF version let me know and I'll add it to this page.

Weekly assignments and topics
For each week I've listed the general topic and the required readings first. I've also given supplemental readings for some of the weeks. Those are not required, but may be useful if your term paper goes in that direction or if you just want to read more.

Week 1. Sep 7. Intro, no readings

Week 2. Sep 14. Classics and Basic Background

1. Schattschneider, E. E. 1975 [1960]. The Semi-Sovereign People. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers.
2. Bachrach, Peter and Morton Baratz. 1962. The Two Faces of Power. American Political Science Review 56: 947-52.
3. Downs, Anthony. 1972. Up and Down with Ecology: The Issue Attention Cycle. Public Interest 28: 38-50.
4. Cobb, Roger W., Jeannie Keith-Ross, and Marc Howard Ross. 1976. Agenda Building as a Comparative Political Process. American Political Science Review 70: 126-38.
5. Walker, Jack L., Jr. 1977. Setting the Agenda in the U.S. Senate: A Theory of Problem Selection. British Journal of Political Science 7: 423-45.

Additional books to buy if you ever run across them:

1. Cobb, Roger W., and Charles D. Elder. 1983. Participation in American Politics: The Dynamics of Agenda-Building. 2d ed. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
2. Crenson, Matthew A. 1971. The Unpolitics of Air Pollution. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
3. Gaventa, John. 1980. Power and Powerlessness: Quiescence and Rebellion in an Appalachian Valley. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Review articles that you might find useful:

1. Baumgartner, Frank R. 2001. Political Agendas. In Niel J. Smelser and Paul B. Baltes, eds. International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Sciences: Political Science. New York: Elsevier Science and Oxford: Pergamon, pp. 288-90.
2. True, James L., Bryan D. Jones, and Frank R. Baumgartner. 2006. Punctuated Equilibrium Theory: Explaining Stability and Change in American Policymaking. In Paul Sabatier, ed., Theories of the Policy Process 2nd ed. Boulder: Westview Press. Forthcoming.
3. Robinson, Scott E. 2006. Punctuated Equilibrium Models in Organizational Decision Making. In Handbook on Human Decision-Making. Ed. Goktug Morcol. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, pp. 133-149.

Week 3. Sep 21. Kingdon, Ambiguity, and Multiple Streams Models

1. Kingdon, John W. 1995. Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies. 2d. ed. New York: HarperCollins.
2. Cohen, Michael, James G. March, and Johan P. Olsen. 1972. A Garbage Can Theory of Organizational Choice. Administrative Science Quarterly 17: 1-25.

The background on where this came from and where it may be going:

1. Cyert, Richard M., and James G. March. 1992. A Behavioral Theory of the Firm. 2nd ed. New York: Blackwell.
2. March, James G., and Herbert A. Simon. 1993. Organizations. 2nd ed. New York: Blackwell.
3. Cohen, Michael D., and James G. March. 1986. Leadership and Ambiguity: The American College President. 2nd ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
4. Zahariadis, Nikolaos. 1999. Ambiguity, Time, and Multiple Streams. In Theories of the Policy Process, ed. Paul A. Sabatier. Boulder, Colo: Westview, pp. 73-96.

Week 4. Sep 28. Punctuated Equilibrium

1. Baumgartner, Frank R., and Bryan D. Jones. 1993. Agendas and Instability in American Politics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
2. Eldridge, Niles, and Stephen J. Gould. 1985 [1972]. Punctuated Equilibria: An Alternative to Phyletic Graduation. In Niles Eldredge, Time Frames: The Evolution of Punctuated Equilibrium. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, Appendix, pp. 193-223. [Originally published in Thomas J. M. Schopf, ed., Models in Paleobiology. San Francisco: Freeman, Cooper, pp. 82-115]

If you are interested in an application:

1. Repetto, Robert, ed. 2006. Punctuated Equilibrium Models and Environmental Policy. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Week 5. Oct 5. Riker and Heresthetics
(Note: We may have to reschedule this class to another day this week. Sorry)
(Proposed term paper topics due in class today)

1. Riker, William H. 1986. The Art of Political Manipulation. New Haven: Yale University Press.
2. Riker, William H. 1984. The Heresthetics of Constitution-Making: The Presidency in 1787, with Comments on Determinism and Rational Choice. American Political Science Review 78 (1): 1-16.


1. Riker, William H. 1988. Liberalism Against Populism. Prospect Heights, Ill.: Waveland Press.
2. Riker, William H. 1996. The Strategy of Rhetoric. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Week 6. Oct 12. Framing

1. Quattrone, George A., and Amos Tversky. 1988. Contrasting Rational and Psychological Analyses of Political Choice. American Political Science Review 82, 3 (Sept.): 719-736.
2. Stone, Deborah A. 1989. Causal Stories and the Formation of Policy Agendas. Political Science Quarterly 104, 2 (Summer): 281-300.
3. Schneider, Anne, and Helen Ingram. 1993. Social Construction of Target Populations: Implications for Politics and Policy. American Political Science Review 87: 334-47.
4. Leiberman, Robert C. 1995. Social Construction (Continued): Comment. American Political Science Review 89, 2 (June): 437-441.
5. Schneider, Anne, and Helen Ingram. 1995. Social Construction (Continued): Response. American Political Science Review 89, 2 (June): 441-446.
6. Nelson, Thomas E., Rosalee A. Clawson, and Zoe M. Oxley. 1997. Media Framing of a Civil Liberties Conflict and Its Effect on Tolerance. American Political Science Review 91, 3 (Sept.): 567-583.
7. Gilliam, Franklin D., Jr., and Shanto Iyengar. 2000. Prime Suspects: The Influence of Local Television News on the Viewing Public. American Journal of Political Science 44, 3 (July): 560-573.

Week 7. Oct 19. Empirical Studies of Framing and Its Limits
(Preliminary bibliography for your term paper due in class today)

1. Druckman, James N. 2001. On the Limits of Framing Effects: Who Can Frame? Journal of Politics 63, 4 (November): 1041-66.
2. Druckman, James N., and Kjersten R. Nelson. 2003. Framing and Deliberation: How Citizens' Conversations Limit Elite Influence. American Journal of Political Science 47 (4): 729-45.
3. Druckman, James N. 2004. Political Preference Formation: Competition, Deliberation, and the (Ir)relevance of Framing Effects. American Political Science Review 98 (4): 761-86.
4. Berinski, Adam J., and Donald R. Kinder. 2006. Making Sense of Issues Through Media Frames: Understanding the Kosovo Crisis. Journal of Politics 68, 3 (August): 640-56.
5. Baumgartner, Frank R., Jeffrey M. Berry, Marie Hojnacki, Beth Leech, and David Kimball. 2006. The Structure of Policy Conflict. Paper presented at the annual meetings of the Midwest Political Science Association, April 20-23.
6. Baumgartner, Frank R., Suzanna De Boef, and Amber E. Boydstun. 2005. Issue-Definition and Policy Change: Capital Punishment and the Rise of the "Innocence Frame," 1960-2003. Working paper. (Note: An updated version of this may be available before we get to this. Stay tuned.)

Further readings on the general topic if you want to go further:

1. Pollock, Philip H. III. 1994. Issues, Values, and Critical Moments: Did "Magic" Johnson Transform Public Opinion on AIDS? American Journal of Political Science 38: 426-46.
2. Terkildsen, Nayda, and Frauke Schnell. 1997. How Media Frames Move Public Opinion: An Analysis of the Women's Movement. Political Research Quarterly 50:879-900.
3. Cobb, Roger, and Marc Howard Ross, eds. 1997. Cultural Strategies of Agenda Denial. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.

Week 8. Oct 26. Cognition and Bounded Rationality
(Note: We will have to reschedule this class for the morning or an earlier day this week. Sorry.)
(Draft outline of your term paper due in class this week.)

1. Jones, Bryan D. 2001. Politics and the Architecture of Choice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
2. Jones, Bryan D. 1994. A Change of Mind or a Change of Focus? A Theory of Choice Reversals in Politics. 1994. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 4: 141-77.
3. Simon, Herbert A. 1985. Human Nature in Politics: The Dialogue of Psychology with Political Science. American Political Science Review 79: 293-304.

Further reading, background

1. Jones, Bryan D. 1994. Reconceiving Decision-Making in Democratic Politics: Attention, Choice, and Public Policy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
2. Jones, Bryan D. 2003. Bounded Rationality in Political Science: Lessons from Public Administration. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 13: 395-410.
3. Simon, Herbert A. 1997. Administrative Behavior 4th ed. New York: Free Press.
4. Simon, Herbert A. 1983. Reason in Human Affairs. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
5. Simon, Herbert A. 1996. The Sciences of the Artificial. 3rd ed. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Week 9. Nov 2. Attention

1. Jones, Bryan D., and Frank R. Baumgartner. 2005. The Politics of Attention: How Government Prioritizes Problems. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Week 10. Nov 9. Threshold Models, Increasing Returns, Positive Feedback

1. Granovetter, Mark. 1978. Threshold Models of Collective Behavior. American Journal of Sociology 83: 1420-43.
2. David, Paul A. 1985. Clio and the Economics of QWERTY. American Economic Review 75: 332-37.
3. Crenson, Matthew A. 1987. The Private Stake in Public Goods: Overcoming the Illogic of Collective Action. Policy Sciences 20: 259-76.
4. Arthur, W. Brian. 1989. Competing Technologies, Increasing Returns, and Lock-in by Historical Events. Economic Journal 99 (394): 116-131.
5. Becker, Gary S. 1991. A Note on Restaurant Pricing and Other Examples of Social Influence on Price. Journal of Political Economy 99: 1109-16.
6. Bikhchandani, Sushil, David Hirshleifer, and Ivo Welch. 1992. A Theory of Fads, Fashion, Custom, and Cultural Change as Informational Cascades. Journal of Political Economy 100: 992-1026.
7. Kirman, Alan. 1993. Ants, Rationality, and Recruitment. Quarterly Journal of Economics 108 (1): 137-56.
8. Lohmann, Susanne. 1994. The Dynamics of Informational Cascades: The Monday Demonstrations in Leipzig, East Germany, 1989-1991. World Politics 47: 42-101.
9. Pierson, Paul. 2000. Increasing Returns, Path Dependence, and the Study of Politics. American Political Science Review 94: 251-67.

Additional readings:

1. Granovetter, Mark S., and Roland Soong. 1988. Threshold Models of Diversity: Chinese Restaurants, Residential Segregation, and the Spiral of Silence. Sociological Methodology 18: 69-104.
2. Kuran, Timur. 1991. The East European Revolution of 1989: Is it Surprising that We Were Surprised? American Economic Review 81, 2 (May): 121-125.
3. Arthur, W. Brian. 1994. Increasing Returns and Path Dependence in the Economy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
4. Bak, Per, and Maya Paczuski. 1995. Complexity, Contingency, and Criticality. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 92, 15 (July 18): 6689-6696.
5. Bak, Per. 1996. How Nature Works: The Science of Self-Organized Criticality. New York: Copernicus.

Week 11. Nov 16. Power Laws
(Draft of your term paper due in class today.)

1. Barabasi, Albert-Laszlo. 2005. Linked. New York: Penguin.
2. Barabasi, Albert-Laszlo. 2005. The Origin of Bursts and Heavy Tails in Human Dynamics. Nature 435 (12 May): 207-211.
3. Mitzenmacher, Michael. 2004. A Brief History of Generative Models for Power Law and Lognormal Distributions. Internet Mathematics 1 (2): 226-51.
4. Merton, Robert K. 1968. The Matthew Effect in Science. Science 159: 56-63.

Deep Background:

1. Zipf, George Kingsley. 1949. Human Behavior and the Principle of Least Effort. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. (Note: If anyone ever finds this book for sale, and it's less than 50 bucks let me know.)
2. Simon, Herbert A. 1955. On a Class of Skew Distribution Functions. Biometrika 42 (3/4, December): 425-440.

Other summaries, explanations, reviews of the broad literature:

1. Watts, Duncan J. 2003. Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age. New York: Norton.
2. Johnson, Steven. 2001. Emergence. New York: Scribner.

Thanksgiving Nov 23.

Week 12. Nov 30. Budgets, Stochastic Inputs, and More Power Laws

1. Jones, Bryan D., Frank R. Baumgartner, Christian Breunig, James A. Stimson, Martial Foucault, Abel François, Christoffer Green-Pedersen, Peter John, Peter B. Mortensen, Scott Robinson, Stuart Soroka, Frédéric Varone, Stefaan Walgrave, and Chris Wlezien. 2006. Are Political Systems Poised between the "Order" of Friction and the "Chaos" of Urgency? Public Budgeting in Comparative Perspective. Working paper. Draft available on-line.
2. Baumgartner, Frank R., Christian Breunig, Christoffer Green-Pedersen, Bryan D. Jones, Peter B. Mortensen, Frédéric Varone, and Stefaan Walgrave. 2006. Punctuated Equlibrium and Institutional Design in Comparative Perspective. Working paper. Draft available on-line.
3. Baumgartner, Frank R., Bryan D. Jones, Christian Breunig, and Trey Thomas. 2006. Social Inputs and Government Outputs. Working paper. Draft available on-line.

A few applications: Read at least one of the following, focusing on the empirical findings:

1. Mandelbrot, Benoit B. 1967. The Variation of Some Other Speculative Prices. Journal of Business 40, 4 (October): 393-413.
2. Adler, Moshe. 1985. Stardom and Talent. American Economic Review 75, 1 (March): 208-212.
3. Chung, Kee H., and Raymond A. K. Cox. 1994. A Stochastic Model of Superstardom: An Application of the Yule Distribution. Review of Economics and Statistics 76, 4 (November): 771-775.
4. Gabaix. Xavier. 1999. Zipf's Law and the Growth of Cities. American Economic Review 89, 2 (May): 129-132.
5. Roberts, D. C., and D. L. Turcotte. 1998. Practicality and the Self-Organized Criticality of Wars. Fractals 6 (4): 351-357.
6. Christensen, Kim, Leon Danon, Tim Scanlon, and Per Bak. 2002. Unified Scaling Law for Earthquakes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 99, 3, Supplement 1 (February 19): 2509-2513.
7. Farber, Daniel A. 2002. Earthquakes and Tremors in Statutory Interpretation: An Empirical Study of the Dynamics of Interpretation. Issues in Legal Scholarship. Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Electronic Press.

If you're interested in being scared out of the stock market:

1. Mandelbrot, Benoit B., and Richard L. Hudson. 2004. The (Mis)Behavior of Markets. New York: Basic Books.

Week 13. Dec 7. Sociological, public policy, and communications examples
Pick one group and read the whole set:

Sociological studies

1. McAdam, Doug. 2002. The War at Home: Antiwar Protests and Congressional Voting, 1965 to 1973. American Sociological Review 67, 5 (October): 696-721.
2. Burstein, Paul, and April Linton. 2002. The Impact of Political Parties, Interest Groups, and Social Movement Organizations on Public Policy: Some Recent Evidence and Theoretical Concerns. Social Forces 82, 2 (December): 381-408.
3. Johnson, Erik W. Jon Agnone, and John D. McCarthy. 2006. Where and How Do Movements Matter? The United States Environmental Movement and Congressional Hearings and Laws, 1961-1990. Working paper.

Communications studies

1. McCombs, Maxwell, and Donald Shaw. 1972. The Agenda-Setting Function of Mass Media. Public Opinion Quarterly 36: 176-87.
2. Hilgartner, Steven, and Charles Bosk. 1988. The Rise and Fall of Social Problems: A Public Arenas Model. American Journal of Sociology 94: 53-78.
3. Neuman, W. Russell. 1990. The Threshold of Public Attention. Public Opinion Quarterly 54: 179-76.
4. Zhu, Jian-Hua. 1992. Issue Competition and Attention Distraction: A Zero-Sum Theory of Agenda-Setting. Journalism Quarterly 69: 825-36.
5. McCombs, Maxwell, and Jian-Hua Zhu. 1995. Capacity, Diversity, and Volatility of the Public Agenda: Trends from 1954 to 1994. Public Opinion Quarterly 59: 495-525.

Public Policy and "Who Leads Whom?" Studies

1. Edwards, George C. III, and B. Dan Wood. 1999. Who Influences Whom? The President, Congress, and the Media. American Political Science Review 93: 327-44.
2. Flemming, Roy B., B. Dan Wood, and John Bohte. 1999. Attention to Issues in A System of Separated Powers: The Macrodynamics of American Policy Agendas. Journal of Politics 61 (1): 76-108.
3. Flemming, Roy B., John Bohte, and B. Dan Wood. 1997. One Voice Among Many: The Supreme Court's Influence on Attentiveness to Issues in the United States, 1947-92. American Journal of Political Science 41 (4): 1224-50.

Week 14. Dec 14. Last class. Discussion and review.

Term papers due. No reading assignments.