Dimensionality, Issue Attention, and Agenda Dynamics: The Case of Federal Urban Policy
36 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2011
Date Written: August 1, 2011
Does the stable, low-dimensional environment that scholars detect in analyses of congressional and mass behavior structure policy debate over a particular set of issues? Through analysis of an original data set of 6,560 congressional hearings held from 1946 to 2004, we map the underlying dimensional structure of congressional attention to a range of urban policy issues including housing, development, crime, and transit. First, we employ an innovative measurement model to demonstrate that the urban agenda space is neither one dimensional, nor stable through time. Second, we show that this dimensional structure is related to changes in issue attention, leading to sweeping issue realignments in the composition of the federal urban policy agenda. These changes are consistent with the shifting partisan and structural features of American politics. In all, our findings have far-reaching implications for issue politics at the federal level and for structuring agenda setting activities of political actors, including city governments themselves.
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