The development of public policy follows a process structured around four essential stages. A public policy comprises a series of actions and decisions taken by government authorities with the aim of responding to a specific problem. The first stage is to identify the problem and put it on the political agenda. This phase, known as setting the agenda, defines the problem that requires government intervention, and justifies why this intervention is necessary. The second stage of the process consists of formulating public policy. This formulation phase provides an answer to the question: what is the solution envisaged to respond to this problem? The aim here is to identify a solution that is both legitimate and acceptable in the current political context. Each of these stages plays a crucial role in the development of an effective policy, guiding the process from the initial identification of the problem to the establishment of a concrete action plan to resolve it.
Agenda-setting analysis seeks to understand how and why certain problems are constructed and recognised as worthy of public attention and state intervention. It is in this phase that the process of 'social construction' of public problems takes place. This means that public problems are not simply objective facts that exist in themselves, but are shaped and defined by social and political actors who interpret and attribute importance to certain situations or conditions. This construction is a complex process, often involving debates and struggles between different actors with different interests and perspectives. Factors such as political power, cultural values, public opinion and the media can all play a role in defining what is considered a public problem.
However, it is important to note that it is often difficult to initiate new public policy. Simply defining a problem as a public issue does not automatically guarantee that it will be put on the political agenda. Obstacles such as lack of resources, political resistance or lack of public interest can prevent a problem from gaining a place on the agenda. As a result, analysing agenda-setting also requires an understanding of the political processes and dynamics that influence which issues are recognised and prioritised, and which are ignored or marginalised.
The Construction of Public Problems and their Placing on the Political Agenda[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Definition and Recognition of a Public Problem[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
The Political Agenda Concept[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
The political agenda represents the issues that the political and administrative authorities consider to be priorities and on which they intend to take action. These issues may include various social, economic or environmental problems that require a political response. On the other hand, the media agenda is made up of the stories and issues that are presented as important by the media, whether in newspapers, television news bulletins, radio or on news websites. These topics are those that the media believe deserve the public's attention and may or may not overlap with the political agenda.
These two agendas can interact and influence each other. For example, the media may highlight a particular issue, prompting politicians to pay attention to it and place it on their agenda. Conversely, political decisions can shape the media agenda, especially when they concern issues of public interest. However, there may also be divergences between these two agendas, depending on the priorities, values and constraints of each area.
The political agenda, particularly that of Parliament, is reflected in the subjects and issues addressed by parliamentarians. These can cover a wide range of social, economic, environmental and security issues. Motions, parliamentary initiatives, postulates, questions and interpellations are all tools available to parliamentarians to highlight certain issues. They reflect the concerns of elected representatives and, by extension, their electors. Analysis of this parliamentary agenda can reveal what the priorities of the political authorities are at any given time, what issues are deemed important enough to require political intervention, and how these priorities may change over time. It should be stressed, however, that the political agenda is not limited to what is discussed in Parliament. Other actors, such as government, political parties, pressure groups or individual citizens, can also influence this agenda, through their own actions and initiatives.
In the Swiss system, the government's agenda, i.e. that of the Federal Council, remains less transparent because of the secrecy of deliberations. This is a rule that ensures that discussions within the Federal Council remain confidential. The purpose of this rule is to preserve the collegiality of the government, by allowing its members to debate freely and take decisions in a collegial manner. Nevertheless, even if the details of the Federal Council's discussions are not accessible to the public, the government communicates its decisions through press releases. These press releases can give an indication of the government's priorities, although they only reflect the final decisions and not the debates that led to those decisions. The Federal Council's agenda may be influenced by other factors, such as parliamentary initiatives, popular votes, requests from the cantons or international developments. Analysis of these factors can therefore also give an indication of the government's political agenda, even if the internal decision-making process remains confidential.
The term "agenda" in this context refers to the set of topics that are deemed important and worthy of attention by a specific group. These topics are usually public issues or problems that require action or intervention. When we talk about the media agenda, we are referring to the issues that the media decide to cover and highlight. This agenda can be influenced by various factors, such as current events, public interest, journalistic values, and sometimes even the commercial interests of media companies. Similarly, the agenda of political parties is determined by the issues they choose to focus on, often as part of their election campaigns. This agenda may reflect the values and priorities of the party, the concerns of their voters, as well as electoral strategies. In each case, the agenda is a way for actors to define what is important and to focus attention on these issues. It therefore plays a crucial role in shaping public debate and guiding public policy.
The Agenda Setting Process[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
The number of issues and questions that can be addressed at any one time, whether in the media, in Parliament, or within government, is necessarily limited. This limitation is due to constraints of time, resources and attention span. Faced with these constraints, the players have to make choices about which issues to highlight and which to ignore. These choices can be influenced by a variety of factors, such as the perceived urgency of an issue, its importance to public opinion, its relevance to existing policy priorities, or its ability to generate support or interest. This means that launching a new public policy can be a difficult and competitive process. Drawing attention to an issue and putting it on the agenda may require effective communication strategies, mobilising support, or convincing key players of the importance of the issue.
The media, like political parties, have a limited attention span and are forced to select the subjects they cover carefully. In the case of a newspaper, space is limited. Editors have to decide which stories deserve to be on the front page, which is the most visible and influential place. These decisions are made on the basis of the newspaper's editorial line, current events, presumed public interest and other factors. Similarly, when political parties launch an election campaign, they have to define their priorities and choose which issues to focus on. These choices are generally made on the basis of the party's values and objectives, the concerns of their electorate, and electoral strategy. This underlines the selective nature of agenda-setting, which is the process by which certain issues are chosen as important and others are ignored. This process can have a significant impact on public opinion, politics and society in general, as it shapes what people talk about and pay attention to.
As part of an election campaign or even their regular communication, political parties tend to focus on a limited number of key themes. This concentration allows parties to create a clear and recognisable brand image, mobilise their electoral base and distinguish themselves from other parties. The themes chosen generally reflect the party's core values, the concerns of their voters and the issues on which they believe they can make a difference. They may also be influenced by current events and the general political climate. Government works in a similar way. Although it has a wider remit, it also has to define its priorities and focus on certain key policy areas. These priorities are usually set out in the government's programme and are guided by electoral commitments, the demands of society and practical constraints.
The agenda of political decision-makers, such as the Federal Council in Switzerland, is limited due to time and resource constraints. These decision-makers are often called upon to take decisions on complex and varied issues, but they can only address a limited number of problems at their regular meetings. This means that they have to prioritise some issues and leave others aside, at least temporarily. This creates competition between the different topics. If one subject is added to the agenda, another may be left aside. This is a dynamic and often complex process, which can be influenced by many factors, such as the urgency of the issues, their relevance to public opinion, existing political priorities and external pressures. The same applies to the agendas of the media and parliamentary committees. All these agendas are limited and cannot be expanded indefinitely to accommodate an unlimited number of subjects. This makes access to the agenda difficult and often competitive, as different players seek to promote their own priorities and issues. This underlines the importance of getting on the agenda in the political process. Getting a place on the agenda is often a crucial step in obtaining political action on a given issue. This often requires advocacy, communication and mobilisation efforts to draw attention to an issue and convince decision-makers of its relevance.
Putting an issue on the agenda is a strategic process that usually involves working to make the issue sufficiently interesting, relevant or urgent to attract the attention of key players, including policy-makers, the media and the public. This process can involve several stages. For example, it may start by identifying and defining the problem in a way that makes it understandable and relevant to a wider audience. This may involve gathering evidence, framing the issue in a certain way, and developing clear and convincing messages. Next, stakeholders can work to draw attention to the problem. This can be done through various communication and advocacy strategies, such as lobbying political decision-makers, mobilising the public, raising awareness in the media, taking part in public debates, and so on. Finally, once the issue has been placed on the agenda, stakeholders generally need to work to maintain attention on it and influence the way it is addressed and resolved. This may involve participating in policy development, lobbying for specific solutions, monitoring implementation and lobbying for changes where necessary.
The Systematic Coding of Political Agendas[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
The agenda represents the set of public issues that are perceived as priorities by politicians, the media and, by extension, the public. The front page of a newspaper is often an accurate representation of what is considered important or urgent at any given time. Decisions about what appears on the front page are generally based on a variety of factors, including current events, public interest, and the newspaper's editorial line. The systematic codification of these agendas - media, political, governmental, parliamentary, or budgetary - makes it possible to track the evolution of public attention and political priorities over time. This can help identify trends, influences and dynamics within the political and media landscape. This method of codifying and analysing agendas is a common technique in the social sciences, particularly political science and communication. It enables us to analyse not only what we talk about, but also how we talk about it, by highlighting the frameworks and narratives used to define and understand public issues. In short, agenda analysis is a valuable tool for understanding the political process and how public issues are defined and addressed.
By using a coding grid with 200 different public policy categories, we can gain a very precise insight into the specific priorities and concerns addressed in different agendas. This grid includes a wide range of areas, such as the economy, the environment, monetary policy, education, health, housing, security, human rights and so on. Each of these categories could be subdivided into more specific issues or topics. By applying this coding grid to different agendas, whether in the media, political parties, governments, parliaments or even budgets, we can obtain precise quantitative data on the relative attention given to each area. This makes it possible to compare priorities between different actors, track changes over time, and identify trends or patterns in public and political attention. Such an analysis helps to understand the processes of agenda-setting, showing which issues are successful in attracting attention and which are ignored. This provides valuable information about how the political process works and the factors that influence political decisions.
Analysis of multi-year data provides valuable insight into long-term trends and shifts in political and media priorities. This can reveal which issues have been perceived as most urgent or important over time. By coding over 22,000 parliamentary interventions in Switzerland, we gain a detailed insight into the issues that have been raised and the problems that have been prioritised by legislators. Questions, interpellations, postulates and parliamentary initiatives reveal the concerns of parliamentarians, their responses to public problems, and their commitment to taking action on specific issues. This analysis shows how political attention is divided between different areas, how priorities have changed over time, and which issues have managed to stay on the agenda or have been overshadowed by other concerns. This information is valuable for understanding not only current policy priorities, but also political dynamics and the factors that influence policy decisions. It also helps to inform discussions about the effectiveness of public policies, and to assess whether political efforts are aligned with the most pressing issues and concerns.
Analysis of government press releases and coalition agreements can provide valuable information on government priorities and commitments. This is another facet of agenda analysis that can enrich our understanding of the political landscape. Government press releases often reflect the government's immediate priorities and the way it communicates its actions and policies. By analysing these press releases over a number of years, we can track changes in the government's agenda and observe how different issues and areas of public policy have been prioritised at different times. On the other hand, the coalition agreements that are negotiated at the beginning of the legislature can provide an insight into the government's long-term objectives and priorities. These agreements are often the result of complex negotiations between different parties, and they reflect the compromises and commitments that will guide government action over the coming years. These two types of documents - press releases and coalition agreements - can be coded using the same coding grid as that used for the media and parliament. This would allow a direct comparison of the priorities and attention given to different areas across the different institutions.
In a Westminster-style parliamentary system such as that of the United Kingdom, the 'Speech from the Throne' (or 'Queen's Speech') is a key element to analyse. Traditionally, this is a speech made by the monarch (or his representative) at the opening of each new session of parliament. Although delivered by the monarch, it is drafted by the government of the day and sets out the main policies and legislative acts that the government intends to implement during the forthcoming parliamentary session. Analysis of this speech can provide valuable insight into the government's intentions and priorities. As it contains a list of the main legislative measures that the government plans to introduce, the Speech from the Throne can be seen as a "road map" for the parliamentary session. As part of an agenda analysis, we can code this speech to identify the main areas of public policy that are highlighted, and see how these compare with the attention given to the same areas in the media, parliament and other sources that can be analysed. It is also possible to track the evolution of these priorities over time by analysing successive years' Speeches from the Throne.
Budget analysis is another very effective method of understanding a government's priorities. The budget is a clear statement of political intentions because it shows where the government chooses to allocate its resources. By analysing budget items, we can see which areas of public policy the government prioritises in terms of spending. By using the coding grid of 200 public policy categories, we can assign each budget item to a specific category. This makes it possible to see how much money is allocated to each area, to compare allocations between different categories, and to track changes in spending over time. It can also be useful for assessing whether budget spending matches priorities stated in other sources, such as speeches from the throne, coalition agreements or government press releases. For example, if a government states that education is a priority, but spending on education is only a small proportion of the budget, this could indicate a gap between rhetoric and action.
The big question that arises once all these agendas have been coded over a long period of time in different countries is how to explain why certain themes are a priority in one agenda and another. This is a key area of research in political science and media studies. If the media and political actors focus on the same issues, it can be difficult to determine who is influencing whom. The media may highlight certain issues because they are important to public opinion, or because they are discussed by political actors. Similarly, political actors may focus on certain issues because they are highlighted by the media, or because they believe they are important to their constituents. To answer this question, it is necessary to carry out a detailed analysis of the relationship between the media and political actors, and to take into account many factors, such as the political and social context, voters' preferences, the influence of pressure groups, and many others. In terms of democracy, it is important that the media and political actors do not focus solely on the same issues, in order to ensure a plurality of voices and perspectives. If the media and political actors both focus on the same issues, this can limit public debate and prevent important issues from being discussed. Furthermore, if political actors focus primarily on issues that are popular in the media, this can lead to a form of media populism, where public policy is dictated by media preferences rather than the needs of society. It can also reduce the ability of political actors to tackle complex or controversial issues that may not be popular in the media.
The question of who controls the agenda is central to understanding the power dynamics in a society and therefore has profound implications for democracy. By setting the agenda - that is, deciding which issues are worthy of attention and how they are framed - an actor can wield a great deal of power. This ability to set the agenda can influence public policy, public opinion and even the outcome of elections. Moreover, the question of who has the power to set the agenda can reveal who has power in a wider society, and can raise important questions about representation, equity and democracy. For example, if the agenda is predominantly controlled by a political or media elite, this may mean that some voices are marginalised or ignored, which can undermine democratic participation and equality. On the other hand, if the agenda is set in a more democratic way, for example by a combination of political actors, the media and ordinary citizens, this can facilitate a broader and more balanced debate. In short, analysing who controls the agenda is a complex task that requires an in-depth study of power dynamics, social and political structures, and the role of the media.
Analysis and Understanding of Public Problems[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Agendas can be analysed quantitatively, by measuring the relative importance that an agenda places on a specific public policy. This approach can reveal trends and patterns in the way issues are prioritised, and can help to understand how political priorities change over time. However, such a quantitative approach alone cannot explain why some issues make it onto the agenda and others do not. To understand these dynamics, a qualitative analysis is needed. This involves looking at how the actors who seek to put a problem on the agenda construct and present it in such a way as to attract the attention of political decision-makers. This construction of the issue may involve a number of strategies, such as framing the issue in such a way as to make it relevant to current political priorities, mobilising allies to support the cause, or finding ways of attracting media attention. Understanding how these strategies are employed and how successful they are can offer valuable insights into political processes and how decisions are made.
Issues are not inherently political or newsworthy in themselves. They become political problems through the actors who highlight, define and present them as requiring the attention and intervention of government or public bodies. This idea is part of a framework of moderate constructivism, which recognises both the existence of objective events in the real world and the active role of social actors in interpreting, defining and constructing these events as political problems. This construction process is influenced by many factors, such as the interests of the actors, cultural values, political ideologies, institutional constraints and power relations.
Let's take the example of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture. This complex subject is perceived and defined in different ways depending on the players involved and the context. For some, GMOs are primarily an agricultural issue: they wonder whether or not this technology will make it possible to increase agricultural productivity. Others see GMOs from an environmental angle. Some are concerned about the risk of genetic pollution caused by unintentional cross-breeding with non-modified plants. On the other hand, others highlight the potential benefits of GMOs for the environment, such as the reduction in the use of herbicides. There are also those who see GMOs through the prism of public health. For them, the debate is not about agricultural productivity or environmental issues, but about how our bodies react to GMOs. They wonder about the risk of developing allergies to certain GMOs once they have been incorporated into our diet, either directly or through livestock feed. Finally, some stakeholders define the problem of GMOs primarily in economic and power terms. For them, the crux of the debate concerns the major biotech companies, such as Monsanto. They believe that these companies, which are mainly North American, risk creating economic dependence by controlling the seed market, thereby creating an asymmetry between the North American market and those in other regions such as Latin America, India and Europe.
In this case, GMOs (genetically modified organisms) can be perceived and constructed very differently depending on the players involved, their specific interests and their frames of reference.
- For some, the debate on GMOs is primarily agricultural, focusing on the impact of the technology on agricultural productivity.
- For others, it is an environmental issue, focusing on the risks of genetic pollution or the possibility of reducing the use of herbicides.
- Some see it from a public health angle, focusing on the potential effects of GMOs on human health, particularly the risk of allergies.
- Finally, there are those who approach the issue from an economic and political angle, focusing on the influence of large biotech companies and the risk of global economic imbalances.
This multiplicity of perspectives illustrates the concept of constructivism in politics: the meaning and importance of a problem are socially constructed, not objectively given. It also demonstrates the extent to which the process of setting the agenda and defining a problem is complex and subject to constant struggle and negotiation between different players with different interests and perspectives.
The way in which a problem is perceived and defined can greatly influence its presence on the political agenda. In the case of GM food, different dimensions of the issue are likely to capture the attention of policy-makers. However, the perception of the seriousness of the problem varies considerably depending on the dimensions considered. For example, if the issue of GMOs is considered primarily from an environmental perspective, it may gain in visibility, particularly because of the growing importance of environmental protection in public opinion and political priorities. On the other hand, if the debate focuses on the economic inequalities potentially caused by the domination of certain large companies, the issue may be perceived as more complex or conflictual and, as a result, may encounter more resistance to its entry onto the political agenda.
The notion of framing is a key aspect of public policy analysis. This concept refers to the way in which a problem is presented or interpreted. The framing of an issue can strongly influence how it is perceived, understood and prioritised by policy-makers, the media and the public. In the context of public policy, framing can be a strategy used by various actors (e.g. interest groups, researchers, politicians, journalists) to highlight certain aspects of a problem, while downplaying or omitting others. By carefully choosing how to frame an issue, these actors can help determine whether and how an issue is addressed in policy-making. Therefore, understanding framing mechanisms and being able to use them effectively is an essential skill for those wishing to influence the policy agenda.
Recognition and consideration of public issues[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Getting an issue onto the political agenda is a complex and multifaceted process, and there is no guarantee that any given issue will go through all the necessary stages. For an issue to be recognised and addressed in policy development, it must overcome a number of hurdles. The first step is usually to bring the issue to the attention of the public and policy makers. This may involve raising awareness of the issue, mobilising the support of relevant stakeholders and presenting convincing arguments about the urgency and importance of the problem. The second stage often involves clearly defining the problem and proposing viable solutions. This may involve research, consultation and sometimes negotiation to overcome differing views and conflicting interests. Even once these steps have been taken, the problem still needs to be placed on the political agenda, which often requires the support of political decision-makers. Sometimes, despite the best efforts of advocates, an issue may be pushed off the political agenda because of political constraints, limited resources or other competing priorities. Finally, once an issue is on the political agenda, policies to address it must be developed, adopted and implemented. Each stage of this process presents its own challenges and potential obstacles. So even if a problem is identified and there is consensus on the need to address it, there is no guarantee that it will reach the public policy stage. That's why it's important to understand how the policy process works and to be actively engaged at every stage to maximise the chances of success.
This diagram represents the long road that the promoters of a public problem must follow in order to build it.
Moving the Problem from the Private to the Public Sphere[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
The transition from the private to the public sphere is often the result of a collective awareness, a mobilisation of stakeholders or a triggering event. It is at this stage that a private or individual issue is transformed into a societal problem requiring a political or collective response. For example, a disease that affects a large number of individuals privately may be recognised as a public health problem requiring collective action, more intensive medical research or specific public policies. Similarly, a situation of social inequality may initially be perceived as an individual or private situation, but once it is recognised as being systemic or structural, it can then be transformed into a public problem requiring a political response. This transition from private to public is often facilitated by social actors, such as associations, pressure groups or activists, who work to make the problem visible, raise awareness among the public and political decision-makers, and mobilise the support needed for the problem to be recognised as a public issue requiring collective action. This is often referred to as 'putting the issue on the agenda'.
The first stage in transforming a private problem into a public one is often the most difficult. The lack of social recognition of the problem is a major obstacle at this stage. Individual mobilisation is often difficult, as people may not realise that their problem is shared by others, or they may feel isolated or powerless. In addition, there may be a social stigma or lack of understanding that prevents people from talking openly about their problem. Several factors can contribute to the lack of social recognition of a problem. For example, a lack of visibility may prevent people from realising the extent of the problem. The problem may also be ignored or minimised, either because of a lack of information or because of prejudice or unfavourable attitudes towards the people affected. The lack of individual or collective mobilisation can also play a major role. Without a voice to articulate the problem and bring it to public attention, it can easily remain in the shadows. Non-governmental organisations, rights groups and activists often play a crucial role at this stage by giving visibility to the problem, mobilising support and advocating for the problem to be recognised as a public issue. The aim is to move the problem from the private to the public sphere, to have it recognised as a social problem that requires a collective or political response.
The transformation of a private situation into a public problem often requires the intervention of one or more influential players for the problem to be recognised on a wider scale. In the case of domestic violence, incest or doping in sport, although these problems are statistically significant, they are often hidden in the private sphere, which makes it difficult to recognise them as social problems. However, the intervention of a public figure - for example, a politician who reveals that he or she has been a victim of domestic violence - can catalyse attention to the problem. This revelation can be the trigger that leads the media, political parties and public opinion to recognise the problem. The phenomenon of sudden and collective awareness of the scale of a problem is sometimes called the "revelation effect". This effect can be triggered by a major event, a revelation, a scandal, or a public figure speaking out. Once a problem has been brought to public attention in this way, it is more likely to be taken into account by political decision-makers and to become a subject for public action. This dynamic highlights the importance of the role of the media, political actors and activists in shaping public issues.
Placing on the Agenda by the Political Authorities[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Once an issue is recognised as a social or collective problem, it has to go a step further to be considered a public problem. This means that it is seen as requiring a government or political solution, rather than simply a response from civil society or non-governmental organisations. In this process, the issue must be sufficiently serious, urgent or widespread to justify intervention by the public authorities. It is essential to stress that not all social problems become public problems. This often requires the ongoing mobilisation of the players concerned, media coverage of the issue and the political will to respond. It is therefore a delicate stage in the problem-building process, as it involves convincing a wider public and political decision-makers of the importance and necessity of tackling the issue at a political and institutional level. The players involved in this phase can be diverse, ranging from interest groups, the media and experts to politicians themselves.
It is important to understand that the fact that an issue is identified as a social or public problem does not automatically guarantee that it will become a political priority or appear on the political agenda. Setting the political agenda is a complex process that depends on many factors. It may include the current political environment, existing government priorities, available resources, public opinion, advocacy campaigns, recent events, among others. In some cases, although the issue is recognised as a problem requiring policy intervention, it may be overshadowed by other issues deemed more urgent or relevant. On the other hand, some issues may be politically sensitive and provoke resistance or controversy, which may also delay or prevent their inclusion on the political agenda. It is also important to note that the political agenda is dynamic and subject to change. Consequently, an issue that is not currently considered a political priority may become one at a later date due to changes in the political, social or economic context.
Some sensitive issues, such as paedophile rings and child labour, although widely recognised as serious societal problems, may find it difficult to get onto the political agenda for a variety of reasons. This may be due to the sensitive nature of these issues, which can make dealing with them politically complex and potentially controversial. Politicians may be reluctant to tackle these issues head-on because of the potential consequences for their public image and electoral support. On the other hand, there may be a lack of political will to address these issues, especially if solving them requires significant resources or profound structural changes in society or the economy.
The concept of 'non-agenda setting' or 'non-decision' is very important in public policy analysis. It refers to the situation where, although the seriousness of a problem is recognised, it is not treated as a priority or not addressed at all by the political authorities.
There are several reasons why a problem may be omitted from the political agenda:
- Possible solutions are controversial or politically risky: If solving a problem requires taking action that is likely to be unpopular or controversial, politicians may choose not to put it on the agenda to avoid political cost.
- Lack of resources: Solving a problem may require a substantial investment of time, money and other resources. If these resources are not available or could be better used elsewhere, the problem may be omitted from the agenda.
- Solutions are complex or uncertain: If a problem is particularly complex or the solutions are unclear, politicians may choose not to put it on the agenda until a clearer solution is found.
- Lack of public support: For an issue to be placed on the agenda, there generally needs to be some level of public support. If the public does not perceive the issue as a priority, it can be difficult for politicians to justify putting it on the agenda.
- Influence from lobby groups or vested interests: In some cases, lobby groups or vested interests can use their influence to prevent an issue from being placed on the agenda.
These 'non-decisions' have important implications for democracy and governance, as they can allow serious problems to persist unresolved.
One of the most cited articles in political science is Peter Bachrach and Morton Baratz's 1962 article "Two Faces of Power", which puts forward the idea that power manifests itself not only in the decisions that are made, but also in the art of controlling the political agenda. According to Bachrach and Baratz, there are two faces of power. The first is the ability to influence the decisions that are made, i.e. to ensure that certain actions are taken by political institutions. This is the most visible and most often analysed form of power. However, they argue that there is a second, perhaps even more important, side to power: the ability to control the agenda and determine which issues and topics will or will not be discussed in the public arena. This second face of power is much more subtle and difficult to detect, because it concerns "non-decisions", i.e. issues that are intentionally or systematically avoided or excluded from the political agenda. For example, a powerful interest group can exert its power not only by influencing political decisions in its favour, but also by ensuring that certain issues that could threaten its interests are not addressed or debated publicly. This approach has been extremely influential in the study of power and influence in political science and sociology, and remains central to contemporary public policy analysis.
The act of 'non-decision', or the deliberate choice not to put a specific issue on the political agenda, is in itself a form of political action. It is what is often called a "politics of inaction". It is a passive decision that has consequences just as important as active decision-making. In other words, when politicians choose not to address a problem, they are making a default decision on how that problem will be dealt with: it will either remain unaddressed or be left to other actors, whether individuals, non-governmental organisations or the market. By failing to act, the political authorities are in effect deciding to maintain the status quo or to let the problem resolve itself, which can have very real consequences. For example, a 'non-decision' on regulating greenhouse gas emissions implicitly contributes to the problem of climate change. This is why the analysis of 'non-decisions' is an important aspect of the study of public policy and political power. It allows us to understand not only what governments do, but also what they do not do, and why.
Even if a social problem manages to be thematised and reach the political agenda, this does not guarantee that concrete measures will be taken to resolve it. Moving on to the formulation phase of a public policy often involves a series of negotiations and compromises between different political players, and generally requires a certain level of consensus. If this consensus is lacking, or if opinions diverge too widely on the best way to deal with the problem, the process can stagnate. In this case, although the problem is recognised as a matter for public action, no specific policy is adopted to deal with it. This is a common scenario in many areas of public policy, where debate and controversy can prevent the advancement of potential solutions. The issue may remain on the political agenda for a long time, without any concrete action being taken. This can lead to frustration among stakeholders and the public, and contribute to a sense of political stasis.
The example of maternity insurance is a perfect illustration of how long and complex the process of implementing public policy can be. Despite constitutional recognition, it took several decades for maternity to be recognised as a condition deserving of insurance cover. As for the Tobin tax on financial transactions, it is another example of the difficulty of transforming a concept into an implemented policy. First proposed in 1972 by economist James Tobin, the tax would aim to reduce speculation on financial markets by taxing international transactions. Despite the support of certain political figures and organisations, it has never been implemented on a global scale, demonstrating once again the complexity of political processes.
Defining a public problem is a complex process that requires various stages to be overcome. Public policy researchers interested in how problems are constructed and put on the agenda seek to understand the dimensions that actors manipulate to construct a problem and how they succeed in putting a problem on the agenda. This involves identifying the key elements that determine how a problem is perceived and understood, and the factors that facilitate or hinder its inclusion on the political agenda. This could include factors such as the presence or absence of public or political consensus, the perceived seriousness of the problem, the availability of feasible solutions, and the political, economic or social interests at stake. These dimensions can vary considerably depending on the context and the specific problem, and understanding these dynamics is essential for those seeking to influence the policy agenda.
Strategy for Problem Construction[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Empirical research suggests that issues that succeed in getting onto the political agenda often have certain characteristics. These are not necessarily objective characteristics, but characteristics that can be constructed.
Labelling the problem[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
A common feature of problems that reach the political agenda is that they are often presented as being particularly severe. Those seeking to promote the problem try to persuade policy-makers of the seriousness of the situation and the potentially dramatic consequences of inaction. This serves to instil a sense of urgency and to encourage decision-makers to act to prevent or mitigate these negative consequences.
The choice of terms used to describe a problem can greatly influence the perception of its seriousness. By using strong or alarming labels, those seeking to put a problem on the political agenda reinforce the idea of the severity of the situation and the potentially disastrous consequences of inaction. Using the right terminology is therefore crucial to attracting the attention of decision-makers and the public, and raising collective awareness of the problem.
Defining the scope of the problem[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
The second dimension, that of scope, complements the first. It raises the question of the extent of the problem's impact: how many people are affected and to what extent? In theory, the more people a problem affects, the more likely it is to attract the attention of political decision-makers. However, the impact of a problem cannot be measured solely in terms of the number of people affected. The very nature of the people affected, i.e. their status, their role in society or their vulnerability, can also play a determining role in assigning political importance to the problem.
A particularly interesting analysis has been made of the attention given to AIDS by policy-makers in the US Congress. Today, although AIDS is not a dominant topic in our public debates, it is interesting to note that there is not always a direct correlation between the objective scale of a public health problem and the attention it receives from politicians.
These researchers found that the attention paid to the AIDS problem by the US Congress and the budget allocated to combating it have varied significantly over time. They therefore asked what factors explain these variations. Their analysis revealed that these changes were largely influenced by the perception of who was affected by the AIDS problem. In other words, the way in which the problem was 'framed' or 'presented' politically, and the way in which interest groups and associations defined AIDS victims, played a crucial role in determining the attention given to the problem by politicians.
At the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, the problem was often perceived as affecting mainly certain marginalised groups, such as homosexual men or intravenous drug users. However, as the epidemic progressed, it became clear that the virus was affecting a much wider population. When AIDS began to be perceived as a problem affecting a wider public, including heterosexuals and children, the attention paid to the problem by politicians and the funding allocated to combating it increased. This example illustrates how the perception of an issue's audience - who is affected by it - can influence the political attention given to it. This perception of the audience can be influenced by the way in which the problem is 'framed' or 'presented' in political discourse and by interest groups.
When AIDS was mainly associated with socially marginalised or stigmatised groups, such as homosexuals and intravenous drug users, there was less political will to tackle the problem seriously. Some of the rhetoric at the time was extremely prejudicial and suggested that AIDS could be a form of 'self-elimination' for these marginalised groups. These attitudes contributed to a lack of attention and resources devoted to the fight against AIDS.
Magic Johnson's revelation in 1991 that he had been diagnosed as HIV-positive radically changed the perception of HIV/AIDS. Until then, HIV/AIDS had been widely regarded as a disease that mainly affected the gay community and drug users. But when Magic Johnson, a highly respected sportsman known for his heterosexual behaviour, revealed that he had HIV, it changed the way the disease was perceived and understood by the general public. This announcement helped to broaden the scope of the problem, showing that HIV/AIDS was not limited to certain marginalised groups, but could affect anyone, including world-famous athletes. This led to a significant increase in awareness and attention to HIV/AIDS, not just in the US but around the world. This has led to an increase in funding for research and the development of treatments, as well as for prevention and education programmes. This is a striking example of how perceptions of who is affected by a problem can influence the political attention and resources devoted to solving it.
The revelation that the HIV/AIDS virus had infected the haemophilia community through transfusions of contaminated blood marked a new stage in the public and political perception of the disease. People with haemophilia are generally regarded as innocent patients who contract the disease through no fault of their own, in contrast to the prejudice often associated with homosexual communities and drug users. This new hearing has drawn attention to systemic problems in the healthcare system and blood safety issues. It has also highlighted the need for a more robust public health policy to prevent the spread of the virus, including better blood screening and safer treatment protocols. Thus, the widening of the HIV/AIDS audience to larger and more diverse groups in society has played a key role in increasing the political attention given to the disease and in formulating more effective policies to combat it.
Identifying an audience concerned by a problem is a crucial step in drawing political attention to a given issue. The wider and more diverse the range of people affected, the more likely it is that the problem will be recognised as a matter of public interest requiring state intervention. The strategy for broadening the scope may include various social groups. The groups affected may be defined by common characteristics, such as disease, profession, sexual orientation, age or even place of residence. In addition, this perimeter may evolve over time, depending on new information available, societal developments, or the actions of different actors, whether they be victims, support groups, researchers, journalists, or politicians. These actors can use various means to raise awareness of a problem among public opinion and political decision-makers, such as awareness campaigns, testimonies, scientific studies, news reports, lobbying or demonstrations. As the scope of the problem widens and more attention is paid to it, the chances of it being placed on the political agenda and of measures being taken to resolve it increase.
Characterisation of the Novelty of the Problem[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
The novelty of a problem can attract greater attention from policy-makers and the public. Interest in new problems can be linked to a number of factors.
Firstly, new problems may seem more urgent or important because they are perceived as emerging threats that require a rapid response. In addition, they may be less fraught with past controversy or political debate, which can make decision-making easier. Secondly, politicians may be interested in new problems because they offer opportunities to stand out and show leadership. They can present solutions to these problems as political innovations and use them to bolster their public image. Finally, new issues can capture the attention of the media and the public, who are often attracted by new and topical subjects. This can create public pressure for political decision-makers to act. However, the fact that a problem is new does not guarantee that it will be addressed. Many other factors, such as the seriousness of the problem, the number of people affected and the availability of possible solutions, can also influence how issues are addressed on the political agenda.
Environmental and pollution issues have followed this trajectory, constantly reinventing themselves to remain relevant on the public and political agenda. Air pollution was first seen as a localised problem (urban smog), but was later reconfigured as a threat to forests and finally as a contributor to global climate change. In a similar way, the current debate on fine particles and air pollution in urban areas represents a new iteration of this persistent problem. By reframing the problem of air pollution in terms of public health, environmental campaigners have succeeded in keeping the issue on the public and political agenda. This illustrates a key tactic used by those seeking to influence the political agenda: constantly reframing and redefining an issue to keep it on the agenda. This process can involve identifying new dimensions of the problem, connecting the problem to other problems perceived as more pressing, or highlighting the impacts of the problem on new groups of people. The ability to effectively reframe a problem is often crucial in attracting the attention of the media, the public and policy-makers. It is a key skill for campaigners, lobbyists and others seeking to influence the political agenda.
Representation of the problematic situation[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
The urgency of a problem is another critical dimension that can influence its prioritisation on the political agenda. By representing a situation as a crisis, stakeholders can create additional pressure for rapid political intervention. This can help overcome political inertia and encourage immediate action. The representation of a situation as a crisis can be fuelled by various factors, such as the apparent scale of the problem, the scale of its impact, the speed at which it is worsening, or the perception that significant adverse consequences may result from inaction. This perception may be reinforced by alarmist messages in the media, by public attention, by scientific evidence or studies, or by dramatic events linked to the problem. However, it should be noted that the use of crisis rhetoric can have harmful effects. If used excessively or unjustifiably, it can contribute to general cynicism and crisis fatigue among the public and politicians, which can ultimately undermine the effectiveness of the strategy.
The nature of some problems lends itself more easily to the construction of urgency. Dramatic events such as terrorist attacks or epidemics generally provoke an immediate political response because of their sudden and potentially devastating impact. On the other hand, problems that develop more slowly or less visibly can be more difficult to represent as urgent. For example, the gradual degradation of the landscape may not seem immediately threatening to many citizens or politicians. However, if left untreated, it could have long-term consequences for the environment, human well-being and the economy. In such cases, stakeholders often have to resort to creative strategies to emphasise the urgency of the situation. This may involve using scientific evidence, highlighting the potentially serious long-term consequences of inaction, or linking the problem to other more visible or pressing issues. For example, the Swiss Foundation for Landscape Conservation might link landscape degradation to more immediate problems such as biodiversity loss, increased flooding due to soil erosion, or the impact on tourism and the local economy.
In the complex world of public policy, competition for attention and resources is often fierce. There are many important issues that need to be addressed, but resources (be they time, money or political will) are limited. This is particularly true in times of crisis, or when other more urgent or visible issues arise. To avoid being overshadowed by other issues, advocates may have to fight continually to keep their issue on the public agenda. This may involve various strategies, such as building alliances with other groups, seeking popular or media support, or lobbying politicians. However, even with these efforts, it can be difficult for some issues to gain the attention and resources needed to be effectively addressed, particularly if they are perceived as less urgent or less directly linked to the immediate interests of the public or politicians.
Identifying the causes of the problem[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
When constructing a public problem, two essential aspects are defined: the causes of the problem and those who suffer its consequences. By specifying the causes, we identify and point the finger at the actors who may be seen, in the political discourse, as responsible or even guilty for the problem. The question is to determine which causes we are able to put forward to explain the nature of the problem we are seeking to resolve.
Identifying the causes of a problem is a crucial step in developing public policy. The way in which these causes are defined has a direct impact on the type of solutions that will be proposed and the players who will be involved in implementing them. The responsibilities assigned at this stage can also have significant political implications. Take the example of the debate following the collapse of houses after an earthquake in Morocco. Interpretations of the cause of this event can vary considerably and lead to different proposed solutions. If the earthquake is seen as an unpredictable and irrepressible natural accident, this leads to a resilient approach to public policy. In this scenario, the emphasis would be on measures such as improving emergency preparedness, training residents in earthquake response, and developing post-disaster response plans. If, on the other hand, the collapse of houses is considered to be due to negligence on the part of the state or other local actors, this opens the way to a preventive and regulatory approach. The solutions envisaged could include the development of stricter anti-seismic building standards, the designation of no-build zones on particularly seismic land and the application of penalties to players who fail to comply with these regulations. In conclusion, the way in which the cause of a public problem is defined directly influences the types of solutions that will be proposed, as well as the players who will be involved in implementing these solutions. It is therefore essential to understand and analyse the causes of a problem before formulating public policies to deal with it.
It is true that attributing the cause of a problem to an intentional action can greatly influence the nature of the public policies envisaged and the responsibility of the players involved. If, in the case of the collapse of houses after an earthquake, the State had demarcated seismic zones and adopted stricter building standards for these zones, but these measures were deliberately ignored or circumvented, this could give rise to punitive measures and stricter regulations. For example, if property developers or builders intentionally ignored these regulations to maximise their profits, they could be held responsible and face legal sanctions. In addition, the state could tighten up its regulations and building controls in seismic zones to prevent future house collapses. Similarly, if the state itself is found liable for failing to properly implement or enforce its own regulations, this could lead to changes in governance, such as the introduction of new accountability mechanisms or changes to construction approval processes. However, whatever the attributed cause of the problem, it is essential to approach the situation holistically, taking into account not only the causes, but also the effects and underlying factors. This will help to create more effective and sustainable solutions to the problem in the long term.
Problems that can be attributed to an intentional cause are often more easily recognised and dealt with because they have clearly identified culprits. This gives policy-makers leverage to respond to the problem, whether through legal sanctions, increased regulation or incentives to change behaviour. The attribution of an intentional cause can also elicit a stronger emotional response from the public, which can increase the pressure on policy-makers to act. Anger, outrage and a desire for justice can be powerful drivers for putting an issue on the agenda and motivating action. However, it is important to note that intentional causation can also have negative consequences. For example, it can contribute to the stigmatisation of certain groups, create divisions within society and make it more difficult to find constructive solutions. It can also distract attention from more complex or structural causes that also need to be addressed. Finally, it is important to ensure that the attribution of an intentional cause is based on solid evidence. Falsely accusing individuals or groups can lead to injustice and distrust in the institutions that are supposed to be solving the problem.
When reading the press and learning about public problems, it is important to analyse and understand the causes presented. This involves not only discerning whether the attributed cause is accidental, negligent or intentional, but also critically examining the evidence presented to support this attribution. Bearing in mind that problems attributed to an intentional cause may be more likely to attract attention, we need to be vigilant to ensure that this attribution is not used to sensationalise or unduly stigmatise certain groups. It is also essential to recognise that many public problems are complex and can be influenced by a combination of accidental, negligent and intentional causes. Ultimately, a critical reading of information is necessary to understand the nuances of public issues and to be an informed and engaged citizen.
Problem Complexity Assessment[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Problems that are simple and easy to understand tend to capture the public's attention more easily and make their way onto the political agenda. This may be due to a number of factors. Firstly, humans naturally tend to prefer simple, clear explanations. We are more inclined to understand and retain information that is presented in a concise and direct manner. This is why political messages or awareness campaigns based on simple, straightforward explanations tend to be more effective. Secondly, complex issues often involve many stakeholders, each with their own interests and perspectives. This can make it difficult to make decisions and develop a clear plan of action. Thirdly, complex problems may also require equally complex solutions, which may take significant time, resources and effort to implement. This can discourage policy makers from tackling these problems. However, it is important to note that oversimplifying problems can also be detrimental. It can lead to ineffective or inappropriate solutions, or to the neglect of important aspects of the problem. It is therefore crucial to balance simplicity and complexity when developing policies and informing the public.
Identifying scapegoats or stigmatising certain groups can be a political strategy used to simplify more complex problems and capture the public's attention. It is a practice that can lead to polarisation, division and sometimes discrimination. Take, for example, the regulation of top managers' bonuses as a solution to the financial crisis. Admittedly, these bonuses can encourage risky behaviour and contribute to the creation of financial bubbles, but they are not the only cause of financial crises. Other factors such as inadequate financial supervision, lack of transparency in financial markets and structural problems in the financial system also play a role. In this case, simplifying the problem and focusing on executive bonuses can distract attention from these other important factors and therefore prevent the adoption of more comprehensive and effective solutions. This is why it is important for policymakers, the media and the general public to understand the complexity of political and economic problems and to resist the temptation to look for simple solutions or to blame specific groups for complex problems. A more nuanced and holistic approach is generally needed to address these issues effectively and fairly.
Quantifying the problem[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Quantification is an essential aspect of problem definition in policy. It provides an objective measure of the scale or importance of a problem, and can help to identify priority areas for intervention. For example, in public health, the number of deaths or illnesses can indicate the urgency of tackling a particular disease or condition. In the field of economics, indicators such as the unemployment rate, GDP or inflation are used to assess the state of the economy and determine the necessary policies.
Quantification can also make a problem more concrete and understandable for the general public and decision-makers. It can also make it easier to monitor and evaluate the policies put in place to solve the problem. In some cases, the problem can be monetised, i.e. given a monetary value. This can help to assess the costs and benefits of different proposed solutions. For example, in the case of environmental problems, monetising the costs of environmental damage can help to justify environmental protection policies. However, it is important to note that not all problems can be easily quantified or monetised, and some important aspects may be overlooked in the process. Furthermore, quantification and monetisation can sometimes oversimplify a complex problem, which can lead to ineffective or unfair policies.
Air pollution is a perfect example of how quantification can help put a problem on the political agenda. The harmful effects of air pollution on human health are well documented. Scientists have established direct links between exposure to certain fine particles or radioactive substances and various health problems, including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, and even certain types of cancer. However, these effects are generally only apparent when epidemiological studies have been carried out to quantify the impact of air pollution on human health. These studies make it possible to gather data on the number of people affected, the severity of the effects on health, and so on. They therefore make the problem more concrete and can serve as a basis for calls for action. Similarly, measuring air quality, for example in terms of concentrations of fine particles or levels of radioactivity, makes it possible to identify problem areas and can serve as a basis for developing environmental policies. However, it is also important to note that quantification only gives part of the picture. It does not necessarily capture all the impacts of air pollution, such as effects on the ecosystem or quality of life, and it can sometimes mask inequalities in the way air pollution affects different populations.
The construction of a problem requires a certain capacity on the part of the players involved. This is particularly the case when it is necessary to collect, analyse and present data to quantify a problem. Quantifying a problem may require specific skills, such as the ability to conduct scientific research or statistical analysis. In addition, resources may be needed to collect data or to call on experts to carry out this work. Highlighting the nature of the problem is another important skill. This may involve the ability to tell stories that draw attention to the problem, run awareness campaigns, mobilise support or exert political influence. Ultimately, the ability to gain recognition for a problem depends to a large extent on the actors' ability to navigate the political and social landscape, mobilise the necessary resources and effectively articulate the nature and importance of the problem.
The Key Players in Agenda Setting[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Why does a problem follow this causal path to its conclusion? This may be due to certain intrinsic characteristics of the problem that reflect the way it is structured by the various stakeholders. This could include the seriousness of the problem, its scale, its quantification or objectification, or the identification of an intentional cause. In addition, it is essential to determine who are the actors involved in the construction of these problems. Who has the ability to influence decisions about problem definition? In short, we need to ask who is responsible for constructing the public problems on the agenda.
Various approaches and theoretical hypotheses have been proposed in the literature. Five are fairly dominant, and there is very convincing empirical evidence for these hypotheses.
Media coverage model[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
According to this model of mediatisation, the media play an essential role in shaping the political agenda. Their ability to focus public attention on specific issues can influence the priorities of political decision-makers as they seek to address the concerns of their constituents. This pattern can be seen in situations where politicians prioritise issues that are widely covered by the media, even if they are not necessarily the most urgent or strategically important. For example, an issue such as climate change may remain on the margins of the political agenda until it is widely covered by the media, raising public awareness and concern. This can spur politicians into action, either by drafting legislation to combat climate change or by committing to adopting greener practices. It is also important to note that the role of social media in shaping the political agenda is becoming increasingly significant. Social media platforms allow campaigns or movements to grow rapidly, sometimes leading to a political reaction. This is the case, for example, with the "Black Lives Matter" movement or campaigns to raise awareness of specific health problems. However, this model also presents risks. The media can sometimes accentuate or distort certain issues, which can lead to a distorted representation of their importance or urgency. In addition, the media news cycle is often much faster than the political process, which can lead to pressure for quick responses rather than thoughtful, sustainable solutions. In sum, the media literacy model suggests that the political agenda is heavily influenced by the media, but this influence needs to be balanced by critical and considered consideration of the issues that deserve political attention.
The media play a crucial role in bringing to light issues that may not be immediately visible to the public or to politicians. Investigative journalism is a perfect example, where the rigorous and detailed work of journalists can uncover financial, political or environmental scandals. These revelations, once disseminated by the media, can provoke a strong reaction from public opinion and become a priority on the political agenda. An obvious example is the Watergate scandal in the United States in the 1970s. The Washington Post's investigative journalism exposed illegal practices at the highest level of government, leading to the resignation of President Nixon. This is a case where the media directly influenced the political agenda. The case of dangerous dogs is another interesting example. This issue, although perhaps considered minor by some, can suddenly gain visibility and urgency if the media start covering incidents involving dangerous dogs. This may lead to a call to action for stricter regulations on the ownership of certain breeds of dog.
However, while recognising the crucial role of the media in shaping the political agenda, it is also important to remember that media coverage can sometimes be selective and influenced by various factors, such as the target audience, the media's political orientation or commercial interests. This means that some issues may be overexposed while others are ignored, which in turn can have an impact on the balance of the political agenda.
Political Offer Hypothesis[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
The idea that the political offer (i.e. the themes and issues that politicians put forward during election campaigns) shapes the governmental and parliamentary agenda is a widely accepted assumption. The priority themes of an election campaign often reflect the promises made by candidates to the electorate, and once elected, these candidates are generally required to implement these promises. Thus, during the campaign, candidates highlight specific problems (such as the economy, education, health, security, etc.) and propose solutions or policies to resolve them. These problems and solutions then constitute the candidate's political offer. If the candidate is elected, these problems become a priority for the government and parliament. The newly elected politician is expected to address these issues head-on and is therefore likely to try to put them on the political agenda.
This hypothesis is based on the idea that political parties actively shape the governmental and parliamentary agenda by highlighting certain issues during election campaigns. Once elected, they strive to keep their electoral promises, which leads to the integration of these issues into the political agenda. Take the example of radical right-wing parties and immigration issues. These parties often attach major importance to immigration during their campaigns, with strict policy proposals on the subject. Studies show a strong correspondence between the priority given to immigration by these parties during the election campaign, their parliamentary interventions on the subject once elected, and the importance of immigration in public and political debate. This suggests that the discourse of political parties during the election campaign may be a predictive indicator of the issues that will take priority in the next legislature. It is therefore important, according to this hypothesis, to carefully examine the electoral promises of the political parties in order to understand what issues will be on the agenda of the government and parliament once the election is over.
These first two hypotheses - that of media coverage and that of the political offer - tend to play down the influence that private actors or associations can have in the construction of public problems. However, it is clear that these groups, including interest groups, lobbies and pressure groups, often play a crucial role in this process. One example of this influence is the model of silent corporatist action. According to this model, interest groups or lobbies can formulate specific demands that only concern their own field of activity, but which nevertheless manage to attract the attention of political decision-makers. These groups can quietly influence the political agenda by asserting their specific interests, proposing solutions to specific problems or highlighting issues that would otherwise have been overlooked. It is therefore essential to take account of the influence of these actors when analysing the construction of public problems. Although their influence may be more discreet or specific than that of the media or political parties, it is no less significant.
It is common for specific professional groups, such as farmers or bankers, to use this agenda-setting strategy. Through their professional associations - for example, the Swiss Farmers' Union, the Swiss Bankers' Association or the Private Bankers' Association - they anticipate problems that may directly affect their field. By identifying a problem in advance, these groups can propose solutions even before the problem becomes a major public issue. This allows them to make direct requests to the political parties or government departments concerned, putting the issue on the political agenda. Generally, these groups will also want to ensure that it is their solution that is taken into account by the government. In this way, they will seek to obtain some sort of endorsement from the state for solving the problem. This strategy enables them not only to control the political agenda, but also to prevent other parties from taking control of the issue that concerns them. This shows just how decisive the influence of private players and associations can be in shaping public problems.
Silent corporatist action is generally carried out through lobbying, a practice that is generally discreet and receives little media coverage. These activities, although sometimes politicised by certain parties, often remain out of the spotlight. However, their impact should not be overlooked. Indeed, these actions often lead to certain subjects or problems being placed on the agenda of the government or parliament. In this way, these private interest groups are able to have a considerable influence on public debate, even if their activity is not always visible to the general public.
Influence of the New Social Movements[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
New social movements are collective forms of action that often emerge in response to specific social problems. They are not necessarily structured around formal organisations, but nevertheless mobilise large numbers of people around particular themes or issues. These movements may concern a variety of issues, such as the environment, women's rights, LGBTQ+ rights, racism, social justice and many others. They often use unconventional tactics such as mass demonstrations, sit-ins, boycotts and civil disobedience campaigns to draw attention to their demands. Thanks to their ability to mobilise large numbers of people, the new social movements can exert considerable pressure on political decision-makers and influence the political agenda. In this way, they play an essential role in shaping public opinion and highlighting major social problems that might otherwise be ignored or marginalised.
Movements such as the anti-nuclear or anti-globalisation movements are good examples of these new social movements. They use direct action methods such as demonstrations, sometimes even violent ones, to draw attention to issues that are often neglected or avoided by traditional political discourse. Take the case of the anti-nuclear movement. This movement emerged in response to concerns about the environmental dangers and risks associated with nuclear power. By organising mass demonstrations and conducting awareness-raising campaigns, they succeeded in drawing the attention of the public and politicians to these issues, thereby influencing the political agenda. The anti-globalisation movements, which advocate a fairer and more equitable form of globalisation, have also used similar tactics. They often organise massive demonstrations at G8 or G20 summits, for example, to express their opposition to neo-liberal economic policies and highlight growing inequalities. These movements have succeeded in placing their concerns at the centre of public debate, despite the fact that they often address issues that are generally ignored by traditional political channels.
The main assumptions debated here concern the type of demonstration that is most likely to influence the political agenda. Three main hypotheses have been put forward:
- Frequency of protests: This hypothesis suggests that the more frequently protests occur, the more likely they are to push an issue up the political agenda. This may be due to the constant media attention and persistent public pressure that forces politicians to pay attention and respond to these issues.
- Size of demonstration: According to this hypothesis, the larger the number of participants in a demonstration, the more likely it is that the issue will be on the agenda. A massive demonstration may indicate widespread concern or discontent among the population, which may force politicians to take these issues into account.
- Degree of violence of the demonstration: This hypothesis postulates that the unconventional, unsupervised, unauthorised or downright violent nature of a demonstration can increase its impact. Indeed, these demonstrations tend to attract massive media attention, which can put pressure on politicians to deal with the problems raised by the demonstrators. However, it should be noted that violence at demonstrations can also provoke a negative reaction and further polarise the debate.
These hypotheses are not mutually exclusive and can all contribute to determining the degree of influence a social movement can have on the political agenda. It is also important to note that other factors, such as the political context, the structure of the political agenda and the reaction of politicians, can also play a role in this process.
Role of the Administration[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
In this context, the authorities play an active role in providing information, analysis and recommendations on various issues. This may be the result of its own research, a review of international best practice or an assessment of emerging trends and challenges. For example, a public health department may identify an emerging public health problem, such as a new disease or an increase in the rates of certain health conditions, and work to put this problem on the political agenda. That said, the administration does not work in isolation. It can work in collaboration with other actors, such as civil society groups, non-governmental organisations, academic researchers and private sector stakeholders, to gather information, develop analyses and formulate policy recommendations. This collaboration can help strengthen the administration's expertise and support its efforts to put an issue on the political agenda. It is also important to note that the government has the capacity to anticipate problems before they become crises. This is particularly important in areas such as public health, national security, the environment and the economy, where early detection and management of problems can prevent serious and costly damage. Finally, government can also play a role in defining how a problem is understood and managed. This can influence the way in which the problem is perceived by the public, political decision-makers and other stakeholders, which in turn can influence the way in which the problem is approached politically.
In the field of public health, the administration plays an essential role in defining prophylactic policies. This can include raising public awareness of the dangers of certain substances or behaviours, promoting healthy lifestyles and implementing preventive measures to combat specific health problems. For example, to tackle the problem of drug addiction, the administration could set up prevention and awareness-raising programmes, establish policies for the treatment and support of drug addicts, and work to reduce the supply of and demand for illicit drugs. Similarly, to combat the health problems associated with smoking and alcohol consumption, the authority can set up awareness campaigns to inform the public of the risks associated with these behaviours, promote healthier alternatives, implement taxation and regulatory policies to reduce consumption, and offer resources to help those who wish to stop smoking or reduce their alcohol consumption. In short, the administration, because of its expertise and ability to gather and analyse information, plays a crucial role in defining and implementing public health policies aimed at preventing and managing health problems.
Senior civil servants, because of their position within the administration, often have privileged and direct access to political decision-makers. Their roles within ministries enable them to communicate directly with members of government, often through their department head who is a member of the government college or executive. As a result, these senior civil servants may be in a position to draw the attention of policy-makers to specific issues, encourage the inclusion of these issues on the political agenda and participate in the formulation of policies to address these issues. They can be particularly effective in advancing issues on which they have particular expertise or which are particularly relevant to their area of responsibility. It should be noted, however, that the ability of senior officials to influence the policy agenda can vary depending on a number of factors, including the political context, the nature of the issue in question and the degree of attention that policy-makers pay to the issue.
The adoption of the euro as the single currency within the European Union is a good example of the importance of internal anticipation in shaping the policy agenda. In this case, the European Commission, acting as the EU's executive body, played a key role in developing and promoting the idea of the euro. It identified the potential benefits of a single currency - such as facilitating trade and investment between EU Member States, stabilising prices and preventing currency fluctuations - and worked to convince policymakers and the public of the need for such a currency. This was done without pressure from social movements, the media or specific political groups. Instead, it was a largely technocratic initiative, based on economic expertise and the anticipation of future problems that the euro could help to solve. However, it should be noted that the adoption of the euro was not without controversy and raised many political and economic debates, both before and after its implementation. Despite this, the euro has become a reality, demonstrating the power of internal anticipation in setting the political agenda.
International organisations often have a great deal of influence in setting the political agenda, even at a national level. This is particularly true in areas such as the environment, public health, human rights and the economy, where problems know no national boundaries and require coordinated action on a global scale. For example, the World Health Organisation (WHO) plays an important role in highlighting public health problems and promoting the policies needed to tackle them. Similarly, climate change agreements, such as the Paris Agreement, are largely influenced by the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international organisation. These international organisations often have a major impact on the national political agenda, highlighting problems that may be ignored or downplayed at national level, and proposing solutions that require action on an international scale. However, their influence varies according to the specific political and cultural contexts of different countries, and their ability to 'impose' their agenda can be limited by local resistance and national priorities.
International organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union (EU) can have considerable influence on the domestic policies of member and non-member countries. These organisations can exert political and economic pressure to encourage reforms and policy changes. In the case of Switzerland, a country renowned for its private banking sector and strict banking secrecy laws, the OECD and the EU have exerted pressure for greater tax transparency. These international organisations have stressed the need for greater international cooperation in tax matters to combat tax evasion and fraud. In response to this pressure, Switzerland had to undertake reforms to comply with international standards. This has led to a review of banking secrecy laws and the introduction of new regulations to improve transparency and tax cooperation. This is a clear example of how a country's domestic political agenda can be influenced by international pressures.
Understanding why a particular issue dominates the political agenda requires an analysis of how the issue has been constructed, shaped and promoted by various actors. These actors may be politicians, interest groups, non-governmental organisations, the media or international organisations, among others. Each of these actors uses specific strategies to draw attention to an issue. For example, they may seek to dramatise a problem, simplify it to make it understandable, quantify it to illustrate its scale, or identify an intentional cause to make it more concrete. In addition, these actors may use various means to put their problem on the political agenda. They may organise demonstrations, run media campaigns, put pressure on politicians, propose legislation, or even resort to violence in some cases. In short, putting a problem on the political agenda is the result of a complex process involving a multitude of actors and strategies. That's why analysing this process is crucial to understanding why some issues receive more attention than others.
Case Study: The Death Penalty Debate in the United States[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Identification of the Debate[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
The death penalty in the United States is an example of how a state uses its legitimacy to exercise an extreme form of violence. Max Weber, a renowned sociologist, defined the state as having a monopoly on legitimate violence. He proposed that this exercise of violence can take many forms, including war, the levying of taxes, and in some jurisdictions, the execution of death sentences. The death penalty is therefore a reflection of the state's ability to exercise violence in a legal and accepted manner. This does not mean, however, that its use is without controversy. In the United States, the death penalty has long been a subject of intense public debate, with arguments for and against its use.
Frank Baumgartner, Suzanna De Boef and Amber Boydstun, in their 2008 book "The Decline of the Death Penalty and the Discovery of Innocence", analyse how the issue of the death penalty is constructed and debated in the United States. They explore the different ways in which this subject is discussed, how Americans perceive the death penalty, and how these different definitions of the problem can have an impact on penal policy, in particular on the number of death sentences and executions carried out each year. The authors suggest that perceptions of the death penalty are shaped by a variety of factors, including individual attitudes, social and cultural factors, media representations and dominant political narratives. For example, in some cases, the death penalty may be seen as a necessary deterrent to serious crime. In others, it is seen as a violation of human rights or an unjust practice that can lead to the execution of innocent people. Furthermore, Baumgartner and colleagues note that the debate on the death penalty has evolved over time. More recently, an innocence-focused narrative has gained prominence, with increased attention being paid to cases where people sentenced to death have been exonerated thanks to new evidence or DNA testing. This has contributed to a reduction in executions and a questioning of the effectiveness and fairness of the death penalty. Ultimately, their analysis suggests that the way in which the death penalty is defined and debated has a significant impact on its implementation and acceptability in American society.
The story of Anthony Hinton is one of the most striking examples of people who have been unjustly sentenced to death. Accused of two murders in 1985 in Alabama, Hinton spent almost thirty years on death row before finally being released in 2015, after new ballistics analyses proved his innocence. This case highlights several fundamental problems with the death penalty. On the one hand, there is the very real risk of executing innocent people. As the Hinton case shows, miscarriages of justice can occur and people can spend decades in prison, or even be executed, for crimes they did not commit. On the other hand, Hinton's case also highlights wider problems with criminal justice, including the fact that poor people and minorities are often disadvantaged. Hinton was initially convicted on the basis of flawed ballistics evidence, and he was unable to pay for an independent expert to challenge this evidence at his initial trial. Overall, Anthony Hinton's story is a powerful reminder of the issues surrounding the death penalty, and highlights why it is so important to have an informed and nuanced debate on this subject.
The approach adopted by Baumgartner and his colleagues is part of a sociology of knowledge approach, which looks at how social problems are perceived, constructed and interpreted by different stakeholders. By focusing on the representation of the death penalty in the press, they aim to understand how public opinions on the death penalty are formed and modified, and how these perceptions then influence penal policy. From this perspective, the press plays a key role as a mediator between society and political decision-makers. The media select, highlight and interpret certain aspects of social reality, thereby influencing the public's perception of specific issues. For example, the way in which cases of innocent people sentenced to death are covered by the media can raise public awareness of the possibility of miscarriages of justice and generate support for reform of the death penalty. Baumgartner and colleagues suggest that this dynamic has played a significant role in the gradual decline of support for the death penalty in the United States. As miscarriages of justice and cases of innocent people on death row began to attract more media attention, public perceptions of the death penalty began to change, leading to increasing pressure for its reform.
The process of creating public policy is rarely linear, and is often represented as a cycle. This cycle typically includes phases of problem identification, policy development, decision-making, implementation and evaluation. However, it is important to note that these stages are not necessarily sequential and can often overlap or repeat each other. For example, the evaluation of a policy may reveal new problems or unexpected aspects of the original problem, leading to a reformulation of the problem and a new set of policies to address it. This is the case with death penalty policy in the United States, as the study by Baumgartner and colleagues demonstrates. While the initial debate on the death penalty focused on its role as a deterrent to crime, the emergence of high-profile stories about innocent people on death row led to a reformulation of the problem. Instead of focusing on deterrence, the debate has increasingly turned to the question of justice and the infallibility of the judicial system. This illustrates how evaluation and feedback can lead to a reformulation of the problem and a change in the content of public policy, leading to what can be seen as a 'spiral' rather than a linear cycle of public policy.
Agenda Setting and Empirical Analysis[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
The issue of the death penalty in the United States remains a subject of ever-changing public debate and policy. Although many jurisdictions have abolished the death penalty or declared a moratorium on its use, others continue to apply it. Stories of death row inmates who are later exonerated and released raise concerns about the infallibility of the justice system, and these stories have called into question the death penalty as a form of justice. This has led to a reformulation of the issue of the death penalty, shifting the public discourse away from criminal deterrence towards issues of justice and miscarriage of justice. This is an excellent example of how public policy issues are often reset and redefined over time, in response to changing social attitudes, evidence and current events.
This graph shows the number of countries that have gradually abolished the death penalty, and we can see that it is really from the 1960s onwards that there has been an almost exponential increase in the number of countries renouncing the use of legitimate state violence in the form of execution. It is interesting to note that many countries have abandoned the death penalty in recent decades. According to Amnesty International, by the end of 2020, 108 countries had completely abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes, while 144 countries had abolished the death penalty in law or practice. However, the death penalty remains in force in some countries, including the United States, which is often cited as an exception among Western democracies. However, even in the United States, there is a trend towards abolition, at least at state level. Several states have abolished the death penalty or declared a moratorium on its use. It is also important to note that public opinion in the United States on the death penalty has evolved over time. Although the majority of Americans still support the death penalty for convicted murderers, this support has declined in recent decades. The evolution of public opinion, together with growing evidence of error and bias in the application of the death penalty, could lead to a more thorough questioning of the death penalty in the United States in the years to come.
Death penalty policy in the United States has gone through several phases. In the 1960s and 1970s, the death penalty became a highly controversial issue in the United States. Doubts about its constitutionality led to a temporary halt to executions. In 1972, in Furman v Georgia, the US Supreme Court ruled that the manner in which the death penalty was carried out constituted cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution. As a result, all death sentences were suspended. However, in 1976, the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in Gregg v Georgia, stating that it was not unconstitutional per se, but that its implementation needed to be modified to eliminate arbitrariness in decision-making. As a result, executions resumed. Since then, the number of executions has risen, peaking in the 1990s before beginning to fall. More and more American states have abolished the death penalty or declared a moratorium on its use. At the same time, the debate about the fairness and effectiveness of the death penalty continues.
Frank Baumgartner and his colleagues have focused their analysis on the period from 1960 to 2010 to examine the way in which the issue of the death penalty has been debated and dealt with in the United States. During this period, several countries around the world abandoned the death penalty, in stark contrast to the situation in the United States, where the death penalty remained legal practice. This period was also marked by major changes in the way the issue of the death penalty was formulated and discussed. The researchers sought to understand how the issue was framed in public debate, how perceptions of the death penalty changed over time, and how these transformations affected death penalty policies and practices. By analysing media discourses, legal decisions, and data on executions and death sentences, they sought to determine how the problematisation of the death penalty has influenced its evolution and use in the United States.
The rate at which the death penalty is carried out in the USA varies considerably from state to state, reflecting different policies and attitudes towards the practice. For example, between 1977 and 2007, Texas executed 279 people, significantly more than most other states. In contrast, states such as Alaska and Hawaii did not carry out any executions during the same period. It is important to note that the number of executions must be considered in relation to the number of death sentences. In other words, a large number of executions in a State may reflect not only a greater propensity to use the death penalty, but also a greater propensity to carry out death sentences. These variations between states illustrate how public policy issues, including those relating to capital punishment, can be influenced by local and regional factors, such as public attitudes, state legislation, and the ethos of local judicial systems.
It is important to emphasise the great disparity between the American states in terms of execution of the death penalty. Take Texas and California, two states with very different attitudes to this issue. In Texas, from 1977 to 2007, out of 392 people sentenced to death or on death row, 379 were executed, i.e. around 96%. This means that once a death sentence has been handed down, it is carried out almost systematically. In California, on the other hand, although a large number of people are sentenced to death or on death row, executions are relatively rare. In fact, only around 2% of those sentenced to death are executed. This shows that, despite the presence of the death penalty in the legal system, its application varies considerably from one State to another. This may be due to a variety of factors, including differences in legal philosophy, public attitudes, and the political and legal processes specific to each state.
In their study, Baumgartner and colleagues looked at the impact of a new perspective on the death penalty, which could be called 'the discovery of innocence'. Thanks to advances such as DNA testing, it has been proven that many people on death row are in fact innocent. This raises the shocking possibility that innocent people were executed. This scientific evidence of the innocence of some people sentenced to death represents a significant change in the way the problem is perceived. This cognitive change could have far-reaching consequences for actual execution practices. In other words, the discovery that some people on death row are innocent has led to a reassessment of the problem of the death penalty. This new perspective may lead to fewer executions and broader reform of the criminal justice system.
Baumgartner and colleagues have studied how the concept of innocence, introduced in part by law schools seeking to review the trials of death row inmates, has had a significant impact. These judicial reviews often revealed that some death row inmates had been unfairly tried, without sufficient evidence, or even despite empirical evidence to the contrary. By highlighting these problems, they have discovered that the system is flawed and unfair, and that innocent people are being executed. By highlighting and publicising this new definition of the problem, they succeeded in influencing both public opinion and the political process, which ultimately had an impact on the decisions taken by juries at trial. This transformation in the perception of the death penalty underlines the power of problem-building to change the way in which a problem is addressed and resolved. By changing the framework through which the death penalty is viewed, they have succeeded in influencing not only public opinion, but also the actual legal decisions taken in the courts.
In their research, Baumgartner and his colleagues have shown that the "discovery of innocence" argument, i.e. the risk of executing innocent people, is not only the most powerful but also the most recent argument in the death penalty debate. More than that, they suggest that it is probably the argument that has had the greatest impact on actual decisions about executions. It has led to renewed reflection on the application of the death penalty and fuelled intense public and political debate. The idea that there could be errors in the justice system, leading to the execution of innocent people, has changed the way many people view the death penalty. The strength of this argument underlines the power of problem frames to influence attitudes and public policy. By redefining the issue of the death penalty in terms of the risks of injustice, they have succeeded in having a considerable impact on the way the issue is perceived and dealt with.
Content Analysis of the Debate[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
In their study, Baumgartner and his colleagues conducted an in-depth content analysis of press articles relating to the death penalty. They examined articles from The New York Times, as well as other national and state press sources, since 1960. In all, they identified and analysed around 4,000 articles on the death penalty. For each article, they determined whether the author was for or against the death penalty, and on what basis or arguments they took this position. This method, known as the inductive approach, made it possible to avoid imposing predefined categories and to explore more openly the arguments used in the debate. After collecting and examining the arguments put forward by the authors, they grouped them into 65 broad categories. This method enabled them to gain a better understanding of the diversity of perspectives on the death penalty and to identify the most frequently used arguments for and against its application.
By coding these 4,000 articles and the arguments they contained, they were able to see the relative importance attached to different arguments. These three arguments represent important themes in the debate on the death penalty:
- Effectiveness - This argument posits that the death penalty has a deterrent effect on crime. The idea is that if people know they are likely to be executed for certain crimes, they will think twice before committing them.
- Morality - This argument raises the question of the morality of the state killing as a form of punishment. Those who support this argument believe that even if a person has killed, it does not make it moral for the state to kill in retaliation.
- Fairness - This argument questions the fairness of the judicial system in applying the death penalty. It asks whether the process of applying the death penalty is impartial, or whether rich people are more likely to escape the death penalty while poor people are more likely to be convicted.
By analysing press articles, Baumgartner and his colleagues were able to determine the relative importance of these arguments in the public discourse on the death penalty.
Another set of arguments adds further dimensions to the death penalty debate:
- Costs - The financial argument highlights the high cost associated with implementing the death penalty, including the associated legal and incarceration costs. Some may argue that the money spent on the death penalty could be better spent elsewhere, while others may suggest cost-effective alternatives such as privatising prisons.
- Execution methods - Execution methods have been the subject of heated debate, particularly in relation to their humanity. Some people are concerned about potentially cruel or inhumane methods of execution.
- International pressure - With many countries abandoning the death penalty, the United States finds itself under increasing international pressure to do the same. The image of the United States as a democracy is also being called into question because of its retention of the death penalty.
After analysing 4,000 articles on the death penalty published since 1960, and identifying 65 separate arguments in these texts, Baumgartner and his team concluded that there has been a marked increase in the attention paid to this issue, particularly around the year 2000. In that year, the number of articles devoted to the death penalty exceeded 200, representing a peak in attention to the subject in the press.
It is clear that there has been a significant increase in the 'salience' of this subject, i.e. its importance, visibility and the priority given to it in media debates. This is particularly striking when you realise that there have been almost 250 articles in a single year, which means that two days out of three, this subject is discussed. This growth in attention is the most significant and was mainly around the year 2000. There was another notable peak in the 1970s during the debates on the constitutionality of the death penalty. As a result, never since the early 1960s has the death penalty been discussed to the extent that it has during this period in the 2000s.
This sharp increase in media attention to the death penalty in the 2000s is highly revealing of the social and political dynamics of the period. It indicates not only a growing awareness of the problems inherent in the death penalty, but also a heated public debate on the issue. The 2000s were marked by significant technological advances, such as the development of DNA to prove the innocence of death row inmates, which may have contributed to this surge in attention. In addition, systemic problems in the justice system - such as racial and socio-economic discrimination - have become increasingly visible, leading to increased criticism of the death penalty. In addition, the high number of articles suggests an attempt by the media to raise public awareness of these issues, which could have an impact on public opinion and, consequently, on policy. This highlights the powerful role that the media can play in shaping public opinion and political debate. Finally, the fact that attention to the death penalty has not been as high since the 1970s indicates that the debate on the death penalty in the US is cyclical, with periods of intense attention followed by periods of relative silence. This may reflect changes in political and social priorities over time.
This analysis of press articles demonstrates the power of what is known as 'framing' in communication. Framing, in this context, refers to the way in which a subject or issue is presented in the media, which can influence the way in which the public perceives and understands that issue. In the case of the death penalty in the United States, the issue of innocence became the dominant framing in the early 2000s. This means that the media began to present the death penalty not simply as a question of justice or deterrence, but as a question of potential innocence or guilt. The emphasis on innocence underlines the idea that the justice system can make mistakes, and that these mistakes can have lethal consequences. This framing approach has had a significant impact on public perceptions of the death penalty. By portraying the death penalty from the perspective of innocence, the media have helped to raise public awareness of the possibility of miscarriages of justice and the potential injustice of the death penalty. It is important to note that this shift in focus is not necessarily the result of a deliberate strategy on the part of the media. It can also be the product of changes in society, such as the introduction of new technologies (like DNA testing) or the rise of social movements (like the movement to abolish the death penalty). However, once a certain framing becomes dominant, it can have a knock-on effect, as suggested by the fact that the issue of innocence has remained the dominant theme in media coverage of the death penalty.
Analysis of the tone of the debate[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
By analysing the tone of an article, researchers can determine whether the article is pro-death penalty (positive tone), anti-death penalty (negative tone), or neutral (neither positive nor negative). This analysis of tone can provide valuable insight into the attitudes and opinions expressed in the media regarding the death penalty. For example, a predominance of articles with a negative tone could indicate a general tendency to criticise the death penalty. Conversely, a majority of articles with a positive tone could reflect general support for the death penalty. Analysis of tone can also reveal how attitudes and opinions may change over time. For example, if the tone of articles on the death penalty becomes increasingly negative over time, this could indicate a shift in public opinion against the death penalty. It should be noted that the tone of an article can be influenced by various factors, such as the framing of the subject (for example, if the article focuses on innocence), the attitudes and opinions of the author, and the target audience of the article.
This graph, which looks at the tone of articles from 1960 to the most recent period, shows a fairly even balance between 'pro' and 'anti' death penalty opinions. In fact, no clear direction predominates, illustrating a fairly neutral position on the issue. However, at the peak of attention in the 2000s, the situation changed radically. The issue of innocence became the main focus of the debate, and took a resolute stand in favour of those opposed to the death penalty. During this period, the tone of the articles became distinctly negative towards the death penalty, an attitude never seen before. This period marked a remarkable historical transformation in the debate on the death penalty. Indeed, there are few cases where such a profound redefinition of the issue has led to such a radical change in the attitude and position of the players involved.
During the peak of attention around 2000, the debate on the death penalty was strongly influenced by the argument of innocence. The possibility of executing innocent people gave a particular twist to the discussions, accentuating the negative tone of the articles about the death penalty. This development is quite exceptional in the history of the debate on the death penalty. It demonstrates the influence that a powerful argument can have on public opinion, and how a single aspect of the debate (in this case, innocence) can transform the way the issue is perceived and debated. It can be seen that despite fluctuations in public opinion and debate about the death penalty over the decades, the issue of innocence has had a considerable impact. This highlights the importance of fairness and equity in our justice system, and how these values can influence opinions on issues as complex and controversial as the death penalty.
Based on these three observations, Baumgartner et al argue that the innocence framework has supplanted other ways of looking at the issue. This framing around innocence has considerable appeal, as it encompasses and reunites previously disjointed issues. In particular, it highlights the inequalities in justice that exist between black and white citizens in the United States, between rich and poor, and between those who can afford competent lawyers and those who cannot.
The innocence framework focuses on one fundamental issue: the miscarriage of justice. It implies that anyone sentenced to death could be innocent, and therefore any act of execution could be manslaughter on the part of the state. This idea has a powerful persuasive force, as it evokes a profound and irreversible injustice that can affect anyone, regardless of race, class or legal status. However, by emphasising the potential innocence of those on death row, this framework also highlights the structural inequalities that exist in the American justice system. For example, it is widely acknowledged that individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, particularly black citizens, are disproportionately represented among those sentenced to death. Similarly, the quality of legal representation can vary considerably depending on the defendant's financial capacity. Indeed, the innocence framework suggests that these inequalities can lead to miscarriages of justice and, consequently, to the execution of innocent individuals. In this sense, it offers a point of convergence for various critiques of the death penalty system and provides a more global picture of the injustice and inequity inherent in the practice. The framing of innocence is therefore not only opposed to the death penalty as such, but also to the socio-economic and racial inequalities that underpin it.
Evaluation of the Cognitive Impact of the Debate[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
The analysis by Baumgartner and his colleagues shows that the rise of the framing of innocence in media discourse has had a tangible impact on the way the death penalty is applied in the United States. This is a manifestation of the power of the media to shape not only public opinion, but also public policy and judicial practices. Increased awareness of the risks of executing the innocent, fuelled by media discourse, has increased pressure on the judiciary to exercise greater diligence in death penalty cases. This has manifested itself in a reduction in the number of death sentences and executions. It has also led to an increase in the number of death sentence reviews and exonerations. In addition, this increased focus on the potential innocence of death row inmates has also fuelled a broader political movement against the death penalty. This movement has contributed to legislative changes in some American states aimed at abolishing or limiting the use of the death penalty. Thus, the evolution of media discourse around the death penalty, with the framing of innocence as a key driver, has had a significant impact on death penalty policy and judicial practice in the United States.
In their attempt to establish a correlation between the change in media framing and the decline in the number of death sentences, Baumgartner and his colleagues employed a sophisticated statistical model to study this relationship. Taking into account potentially influential variables, such as changes in public opinion, the number of homicides and the inertia of public policies in different states, they analysed whether the renewed framing of the death penalty, by emphasising innocence, had had an impact on the number of death sentences and executions. They concluded that the reframing of the death penalty debate had had a significant impact. Not only did this lead to a reduction in the number of death sentences and executions, but it also influenced the way in which the death penalty was perceived and implemented. This study highlights the importance of discussion frameworks in the construction of social problems and how they can lead to significant changes in public policy and practice.
Perceptible changes in media discourse can have a significant impact on public opinion and, as a result, influence both legislators and decisions taken in the justice system. If the issue of innocence has become dominant in the media, it is very likely that this has played a role in the thinking of popular juries, judges and even legislators when revising laws. Legislators, for their part, may have been prompted to re-evaluate death penalty laws in order to minimise the risk of miscarriages of justice. In addition, judges and juries may be more cautious in applying the death penalty, given that public opinion is increasingly concerned about the issue of innocence. In short, this change in the framing of the debate on the death penalty has very probably led to a transformation not only of public opinion, but also of the legislative and judicial landscape.
Formulating Public Policy: Defining Objectives and Choosing Instruments[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Once a problem has risen to the top of the political agenda, it is up to the government authorities, in particular the government itself, parliament and its administration, to devise a variety of strategies and solutions in an attempt to resolve the problem at the heart of the public policy under discussion.
The formulation or programming phase generally results in the adoption of standards and laws that may entail changes to international law, amendments to constitutional articles (as might be the case following the adoption of a popular initiative), federal laws, federal decrees, urgent federal decrees, as well as ordinances or directives. All these elements constitute the normative underpinnings of public policy.
When examining the content of public policy as formulated by the political authorities, we focus mainly on three distinct elements.
- Public policy objectives: These are the goals or desired results that public policy aims to achieve. They define the desired change or improvement.
- Policy instruments: These are the means or tools deployed to achieve the set objectives. These instruments can take various forms, such as laws, regulations, subsidies, incentives, training programmes, etc.
- Institutional or organisational arrangements: These determine which players will be responsible for implementing the instruments. These actors may be government agencies, non-governmental organisations, private companies, associations, etc. These arrangements also specify the roles, responsibilities, relationships and interactions between these players.
Definition of Public Policy Objectives[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
The objectives of a public policy are the translation or explanation of the solution envisaged to resolve the problem identified. In other words, they reflect the part of the problem that public policy aims to resolve. Since the aim of a public policy is to solve a problem, objectives make explicit the ideal situation or desired state of affairs once the problem has been fully or partially resolved. The definition of objectives in a public policy is crucial to its successful implementation. These objectives act like a compass, guiding all efforts towards a desired situation. They give a clear meaning to the policy, focus efforts, align the various stakeholders and measure the progress made.
The acronym "SMART" is often used to define clear and achievable objectives. It stands for :
- Specific: The objective should be clear, precise and easy to understand. Instead of saying "improve quality of life", a specific objective might be "reduce the unemployment rate by 10% in 5 years".
- Measurable: It must be possible to measure whether the objective has been achieved. To do this, specific indicators need to be defined. For example, the unemployment rate could be an indicator for measuring improvements in quality of life.
- Achievable: The objective must be realistic and achievable, given existing resources and constraints. It should be a challenge, but not impossible to achieve.
- Relevant: The objective must be relevant and in line with overall priorities and strategies. It must have a significant impact on solving the problem.
- Time-bound: The objective must have a clear deadline. This adds a sense of urgency and helps to plan and monitor progress.
Using SMART objectives can help to focus efforts, facilitate communication and progress monitoring, and motivate those involved. However, it is important to note that defining SMART objectives requires careful thought and planning, as well as a good understanding of the problem to be solved.
In the context of the fight against unemployment, a clearly defined and credible policy objective, such as "to reduce by 5% over the next five years the rate of jobseekers registered with regional employment offices for the unskilled long-term unemployed", plays an essential role in formulating and steering public policy.
There are several reasons for this:
- Clarifies the aims of the policy: This type of objective makes explicit precisely what the policy is intended to achieve. In this case, the aim is to reduce unemployment among long-term unskilled workers.
- Helps with planning and implementation: By defining precise targets, policy-makers, administrators and stakeholders know where to direct their efforts. Strategies, programmes and initiatives can be designed to meet this specific objective.
- Facilitates monitoring and evaluation: A quantifiable, time-bound target, such as a 5% reduction over five years, makes it possible to measure progress and evaluate the effectiveness of the policy. The results can be compared with the target to determine whether the policy is on track to achieve it.
- Enables accountability: With a clear and measurable objective, it is easier to hold policy-makers and institutions accountable for their actions and results. If the objective is not achieved, this can give rise to questions about why this was not the case and what can be done to improve the situation.
- Makes the policy more understandable to the public: A clearly stated objective helps the public to understand what the policy aims to achieve and why it is important. This can help build public support for the policy and encourage participation and co-operation.
In short, defining clear and specific objectives is a crucial step in creating effective and accountable public policy.
Laws are often written in legal language that may be vague or difficult to understand for the non-specialist public. In addition, for a variety of reasons, legislators may choose to state broad, general objectives rather than specific, measurable ones. For example
- Complexity of the subject: Public policy problems can be complex and multifactorial, making it difficult to define clear and simple objectives.
- Diversity of stakeholders: Public policy often involves a wide range of stakeholders with different interests and priorities. As a result, policy objectives can be broadly formulated to accommodate these different perspectives.
- Flexibility: Legislators may choose to leave some leeway in the formulation of objectives to allow flexibility in policy implementation.
- Political considerations: Public policy objectives may be influenced by political considerations, including the desire to compromise or avoid controversial issues.
However, it is important to note that formulating 'non-smart' objectives can make it difficult to assess the effectiveness of the policy. It can also create challenges in terms of transparency and accountability. It is therefore essential to seek to formulate objectives that are as specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound as possible.
The first article of the Federal Law on Spatial Planning sets out the objectives: "The Confederation, the cantons and the communes shall ensure that the use of land is measured [...]". Article 1 of the Federal Environmental Protection Act states that "The purpose of this Act is to protect humans, animals and plants, their biocenoses and biotopes against harmful or inconvenient effects [...]". Article 1 of the Federal Energy Act states that "The purpose of this Act is to contribute to a sufficient, diversified, secure and economic supply of energy that is compatible with the protection of the environment [...]". This is a good illustration of how public policy objectives can be formulated in laws in a general and less specific way. Each objective stated in these laws is noble and necessary, but they lack specificity, measurability and a precise deadline, which is at the heart of the concept of "SMART" objectives. For example:
- Federal Law on Spatial Planning: The stated objective is to ensure a "measured use of land". This is a laudable objective, but what exactly does "measured use" mean? How will this be measured? What is the ideal situation that is being targeted?
- Federal Environmental Protection Act: The aim is to protect various elements of the environment "against harmful or inconvenient interference". Again, how is "harmful" or "inconvenient" defined? What are the specific indicators of success?
- Federal Energy Act: The aim is to contribute to an energy supply that meets a number of criteria. Although each of these criteria is important, how will they be measured? What are the specific targets for each criterion?
These examples highlight the importance of developing more specific and measurable objectives when formulating public policy. Without clearly defined objectives, it can be difficult to measure the success or failure of the policy, or to adjust the policy if necessary.
The choice to state more vague objectives in public policies can be strategic. By making objectives too specific, policy-makers risk alienating certain interest groups or stakeholders who may not agree with these specific objectives. What's more, by setting very precise objectives, they are setting themselves measurable expectations, which could be used against them if the objectives are not achieved. On the other hand, vague objectives can give greater flexibility in the interpretation and application of public policies. They allow a certain amount of leeway for adapting policy implementation to specific or changing situations. However, the risk of this approach is that the lack of clarity and precision can lead to difficulties in assessing the effectiveness of public policies, and can also give rise to conflicts of interpretation between the different players involved in implementing these policies.
The 'smart' objectives in a public policy clearly reveal who will benefit from the policy and what particular problem it will solve. As a result, they also highlight which problems or groups are not a priority. Highlighting the distribution of a policy's effects in this way can undermine its political acceptability, because it makes the choices and trade-offs more obvious. This is why, in general, the objectives set out in laws and constitutions tend to be vague and all-encompassing. It is only at the level of implementing legislation, such as ordinances, that objectives become more precise. These more detailed instruments allow greater precision while maintaining a certain political acceptability, largely because they are often less visible and less controversial than the laws or constitutions themselves.
To pass a constitutional article or a law, it is necessary to obtain a consensus within parliament, and in countries like Switzerland, it is also necessary to win a popular vote with a double majority (a majority of citizens and a majority of cantons). These criteria are high barriers to political acceptance. Ordinances, on the other hand, which allow for greater precision, are generally adopted solely by the government and are not subject to an optional referendum. As a result, they can be introduced with a lower degree of political acceptance. This makes it possible to be more precise and specific in policy objectives without having to obtain the agreement of large segments of society or politics.
When we talk about precise objectives in the context of public policy, we are often talking about details that specifically define the expected results, the target audience, the timetable and the criteria for success. However, due to political complexity and sensitivity, it is difficult to establish these precise objectives at a general constitutional or legislative level. In a constitution, objectives are usually formulated in very general terms, as they need to be acceptable to a wide range of groups in society, including those with conflicting interests. In addition, the constitution is a document of long scope and duration, which means that it must be flexible enough to adapt to future changes. At the level of general law, the objectives can be a little more specific, but they still need to be broad enough to allow for different interpretations and applications in different contexts. Furthermore, the adoption of a law generally requires a parliamentary majority, and sometimes even a popular vote, which makes it difficult to reach a consensus on very specific objectives. This is why, in most cases, the most precise details of the objectives of a public policy are defined in the ordinances or regulations that are drawn up to implement the law. These documents are usually drafted by the government agencies responsible for implementing the policy, and do not require parliamentary or public approval. This gives the agencies the flexibility to define precise objectives that meet the specific needs of the policy, while respecting the general framework established by the constitution and the law.
Selection and use of Public Action Instruments[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
In the implementation of public policies, the specific objectives are not always clearly defined or specified in legislative or constitutional texts. However, what is generally most visible and tangible for citizens is the practical implementation of these policies: in other words, the concrete actions undertaken by public administrations to achieve the general objectives set out in laws and regulations. For example, a public policy aimed at improving education may have a vague objective, such as "improving the quality of education". However, the concrete actions taken by schools, teachers and administrations to achieve this objective - such as hiring new teachers, implementing new teaching methods, or increasing funding for schools - are more tangible aspects of this public policy. These concrete actions, often referred to as 'policy instruments' in public policy jargon, are therefore generally the most direct and visible way for citizens to understand how public policy is implemented. It is also through these actions that citizens can assess the effectiveness of a public policy and whether the general objectives are being achieved.
Instruments are the concrete tools that the State uses to apply its public policies and achieve the objectives set. They provide the link between public administrators and target groups in civil society. These instruments can take different forms. For example, they can take the form of authorisations, which grant the right to carry out certain actions; prohibitions, which prevent certain actions from being carried out; or prescriptions, which oblige certain actions to be carried out. The State has a wide range of these instruments at its disposal to achieve the objectives set by its public policies. The choice of a specific instrument may depend on a number of factors, such as the nature of the problem to be solved, the political and social context, or the resources available. An important area of research in public policy analysis is to study why a certain instrument is chosen and implemented, and how effective it is in achieving the objectives set. This can involve analysing data on the instrument's performance, assessing its impact on society and the economy, and studying the processes by which the instrument was chosen and implemented. This research can help to improve the formulation and implementation of public policies in the future.
When formulating public policy, there is a wide range of instruments, from the least intrusive to the most intrusive. These instruments can vary in terms of the extent of their intervention in society or the economy, as well as the effort required to implement them. For example, the least intrusive instruments include information and persuasion, where the state seeks to influence the behaviour of citizens or businesses by providing information or encouraging them to adopt certain practices. In the middle of the spectrum are instruments such as tax incentives or regulations, where the state seeks to influence behaviour by modifying the costs or benefits associated with certain actions. Among the most intrusive instruments are prohibitions or prescriptions, where the state directly imposes certain actions or prohibits certain practices. When formulating public policy, different actors may prefer different instruments depending on their interests and values. For example, some actors may prefer less intrusive instruments that are more respectful of individual autonomy, while others may prefer more intrusive instruments that guarantee more direct control over outcomes. These debates on the choice of instruments can be an important part of the policy formulation process.
Self-regulation[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Self-regulation is a type of public policy instrument in which the state seeks to influence the behaviour of the actors concerned, but leaves them a degree of autonomy to determine the exact way in which they will respond. This can be done through voluntary codes of conduct, sectoral standards or private certification schemes, for example. The idea behind self-regulation is that by allowing stakeholders to make their own decisions, they will be more likely to engage with the process and comply with the policy objectives. It may also allow greater flexibility and adaptation to the specific conditions of different actors or sectors. However, self-regulation also presents challenges. For example, it can be difficult for the state to ensure that all actors behave responsibly and meet the policy objectives. In addition, self-regulation can sometimes lead to inequalities, as some actors may have more resources or capacity to comply with policies than others.
Gentleman's agreements or due diligence agreements are informal, often non-binding, agreements between the parties involved - in this case, the banks - on how they will deal with a certain problem - in this case, money laundering, tax evasion, terrorist financing and the recycling of dictators' money. These agreements can be seen as an example of self-regulation, as they are negotiated and implemented by the banks themselves, rather than being imposed by the state. This gives the banks considerable leeway in determining how they will achieve the policy objectives, while minimising state intrusion into their activities. However, this type of instrument has its limits and challenges. In this case, the effectiveness of these conventions has been called into question as a result of international pressure. This pressure has probably highlighted some of the difficulties inherent in self-regulation, in particular the risk that the players concerned will not take sufficient action to resolve the problem or that they will not fully comply with the agreed conventions.
Information and persuasion campaigns[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Information and persuasion campaigns represent a higher degree of state involvement in guiding the behaviour of target groups. These methods fall somewhere between self-regulation and more restrictive mandatory regulations. With information campaigns, the state seeks to educate the public or a specific group about a certain problem or issue, in the hope of encouraging them to act in a way that helps solve the problem. For example, an information campaign on the harmful effects of smoking on health will aim to encourage people to stop smoking. Persuasion campaigns, on the other hand, often involve a more active approach to influencing behaviour. They may include social marketing messages aimed at promoting certain behaviours or discouraging others. For example, a persuasion campaign may encourage recycling or the reduction of energy consumption. In both cases, the aim is to influence behaviour without resorting to binding legislative or regulatory measures. However, the effectiveness of these approaches largely depends on the willingness and ability of the public or target group to change their behaviour.
Awareness campaigns on subjects such as HIV/AIDS prevention or the dangers of smoking are typical examples of public policy instruments used to influence people's behaviour. For example, HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns can use a variety of methods, from TV or radio advertisements to posters and leaflets, to inform the public about the dangers of HIV/AIDS and the importance of using condoms to prevent the transmission of this disease. Similarly, health warnings on cigarette packets are another method used to influence smoking behaviour. Graphic images and hard-hitting messages about the dangers of smoking are designed to dissuade smokers from continuing to smoke, or at least to encourage them to cut down. Warnings on alcohol bottles are also a public policy tool used to make consumers aware of the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption. Warnings can indicate the health risks associated with alcohol consumption, as well as the dangers of drink-driving or drinking during pregnancy. However, although these awareness campaigns can have a certain impact, their effectiveness largely depends on the public's receptiveness to these messages and their willingness to change their behaviour accordingly.
The information and awareness-based approach is based on the idea that individuals, once properly informed, will be able and willing to adopt healthier or more beneficial behaviours. However, this approach also presupposes that individuals are willing and able to act on this information, which is not always the case. For example, in the case of smoking: even if smokers are well aware of the health risks associated with their behaviour, many continue to smoke. There may be a variety of reasons for this, such as an addiction to nicotine, a feeling that the immediate benefits of smoking (such as stress relief or pleasure) outweigh the long-term risks, or a lack of support or resources for quitting. This is why, in some cases, stronger interventions may be necessary. For example, the state may decide to introduce restrictions on the sale of cigarettes, raise taxes on tobacco to increase its cost, or offer state-funded smoking cessation programmes to help those who want to stop smoking. In all cases, the choice of public policy instrument will depend on the specifics of the problem to be solved, the political and social acceptability of the instrument, and the capacity of the state to implement it effectively.
Positive and negative incentives[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
Positive incentives, or 'carrots', are measures designed to encourage a certain behaviour through rewards or benefits. For example, in the case of anti-smoking policies, a positive incentive might be to subsidise treatments to help people stop smoking, such as nicotine patches. This makes these treatments more accessible and affordable, which may encourage more smokers to try to quit. Alongside positive incentives, there are also negative incentives, or "sticks". These are measures that seek to dissuade a certain behaviour by making it less attractive or more expensive. In the context of smoking, a negative incentive might be a tax on cigarettes, which increases the cost of smoking and therefore makes it less attractive. These two types of incentive can be used in a complementary way in public policy. For example, the revenue generated by a tax on tobacco can be used to fund smoking cessation programmes, thus combining a negative incentive (increasing the cost of smoking) with a positive incentive (making cessation aids more affordable).
The use of financial measures such as subsidies or taxes is a method commonly used to influence the behaviour of those targeted by a public policy. Subsidies can make certain behaviours more attractive by reducing the costs associated with them. For example, subsidies for farmers can make more environmentally friendly production methods more affordable and therefore more attractive. This can help to encourage farmers to adopt more sustainable practices, thereby helping to achieve the environmental objectives of public policy. Conversely, taxes can be used to discourage certain behaviours by increasing their costs. For example, a tax on tobacco makes smoking more expensive, which can discourage people from smoking. Similarly, a carbon tax can increase the cost of fossil fuels, encouraging businesses and individuals to switch to cleaner sources of energy. It should be noted that subsidies and taxes can also have redistributive effects, by transferring resources from one group to another. As a result, their use can sometimes be controversial and give rise to political debate.
As state intervention becomes stronger and the degree of constraint increases, the acceptability of these measures may diminish. Each public policy instrument has specific implications in terms of the rights, freedoms and responsibilities of different target groups. For example, while incentives such as subsidies or taxes may be seen as more respectful of individual freedom, stricter regulations or bans may be perceived as infringements of that freedom. This is why the process of developing public policy often involves striking a balance between the effectiveness of the instrument in achieving the desired objective and its acceptability to the public and stakeholders. This dynamic can give rise to lively and sometimes polarising debates. This can be particularly evident when dealing with complex and controversial issues, where different groups have divergent interests. For example, in the environmental field, the choice of a specific instrument can have significant implications for industry, consumers and environmentalists, each with different perspectives and priorities.
Prescription and Prohibition[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
The next stage in the spectrum of state intrusion into public policy involves more direct regulatory approaches, such as prescriptions, which can take the form of authorisations and prohibitions.
- Authorisations: The state may require certain target groups to obtain an authorisation or permit before undertaking certain actions. These permits may include specific conditions that must be met. An example might be the authorisation needed to open a catering establishment, which may require compliance with certain health and safety standards.
- Prohibitions: This is the strictest form of control, where certain behaviours are simply prohibited by law. Prohibitions can cover a wide range of behaviours, from consuming certain substances (such as illegal drugs) to carrying out certain activities (such as drink-driving).
These forms of control are often used when the risks associated with certain behaviours are deemed too high to be left unregulated. However, their implementation requires strict monitoring and enforcement by the state, which can lead to additional costs. In addition, they can sometimes be perceived as an infringement of individual freedoms, which can give rise to debate and controversy.
Prescriptive instruments, such as authorisations or bans, have a great capacity to influence the behaviour of target groups. For example, by making it compulsory to have a driving licence, the State not only ensures that drivers have the necessary skills to navigate the roads safely, but also that traffic rules are respected, thereby minimising the risk of accidents. Similarly, the prohibition of certain actions, such as drink-driving, aims to protect society as a whole by preventing dangerous behaviour. These prescriptive instruments are therefore particularly effective in changing behaviour, although they may be perceived as restrictive or intrusive. However, their effectiveness also depends on the application of these rules and the State's ability to monitor and punish infringements. Regulations, however strict, will have little effect if they are not properly implemented and enforced.
Nationalisation and State control[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
The most intrusive form of public action is nationalisation or étatisation, where the state takes direct control of an industry or sector. Historically, many countries have nationalised essential industries such as transport, energy or telecommunications in order to guarantee universal access to these services. For example, railways, postal services and electricity were often state-run. However, in recent years, many countries have followed the opposite trend, re-privatising these industries or opening them up to competition. Arguments in favour of privatisation often include greater efficiency through competition and the opportunity for the state to reduce its debt by selling off assets.
At the same time, there are other forms of highly intrusive state intervention, such as the criminal justice system. Imprisonment and the death penalty are examples of ultimate sanctions that demonstrate the state's ability to severely restrict individual freedom. This illustrates how powerful and controlling the state can be in pursuing its public policy objectives. However, these forms of intervention are often the subject of intense debate because of their highly intrusive nature and the moral and ethical implications that flow from them.
Instrument Selection Process[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
The choice of public policy instruments is a key decision that can significantly influence the effectiveness and perception of a policy. The selection must take into account a number of factors, including :
- Policy objectives: Objectives largely determine which types of instruments will be most effective. For example, if the objective is to reduce tobacco consumption, instruments such as taxes, awareness campaigns and restrictions on sales could be used.
- Political and social acceptability: Some instruments may be more politically acceptable than others. For example, economic incentives may be preferable to bans or strict regulations.
- Costs and available resources: The application of certain instruments may be costly, and the State must assess whether sufficient resources are available to implement and maintain the chosen instrument.
- Characteristics of the target group: The behaviour and attitudes of the target group may also influence the choice of instruments. For example, some groups may be more receptive to information and persuasion, while others may require economic incentives or stricter regulations.
- Anticipated and unanticipated impacts: When choosing an instrument, decision-makers also need to consider potential impacts and unintended consequences. For example, the introduction of a tax could have distributional effects that may require other compensatory policies.
It is important to note that effective public policy may require a combination of instruments rather than a single one. A multifaceted approach could help manage the complexity of social problems and respond to a wider range of behaviours and attitudes.
Proportionality is a fundamental principle in the development of public policy and the choice of instruments. This means that the measures adopted to achieve an objective must be appropriate and must not go beyond what is necessary to achieve that objective.
In the context of public policy, proportionality can be considered at two levels:
- Proportionality between objectives and instruments: The instruments chosen to achieve an objective must be appropriate to the scale and importance of the objective. For example, if the objective is to significantly reduce tobacco consumption, an instrument such as a slight increase in the legal age for buying cigarettes may not be proportionate. On the other hand, a combination of higher taxes, restrictions on advertising and state-funded cessation programmes might be more proportionate.
- Proportionality between the benefits of the policy and its costs or negative impacts: This means that the expected benefits of the policy (e.g. improved public health) must be proportionate to the costs or disadvantages it may cause (e.g. restriction of individual freedoms, economic costs to tobacco companies). If a policy results in costs that are excessive in relation to its benefits, it may be considered disproportionate.
Assessing proportionality can be complex, as it requires weighing up sometimes contradictory factors and taking into account the direct and indirect effects of the policy. This is why, in practice, the development of public policy often involves an ongoing process of evaluation and review to ensure that the policy remains proportionate to its objectives and impacts.
The tension between security and freedom is a classic debate in the formulation of public policy, particularly in areas related to national security, criminal justice, public health and information technology.
- National security and criminal justice: Policies designed to prevent terrorism or crime may involve intrusive measures such as surveillance, profiling or preventive detention. These measures may be effective in improving security, but they may also infringe fundamental rights such as the right to privacy, freedom of movement or the presumption of innocence.
- Public health: Epidemics such as COVID-19 often require public health measures that restrict individual freedoms. For example, quarantine, confinement or compulsory vaccination. These measures may be necessary to protect the health of the population, but they must be proportionate to the seriousness of the threat and respect individual rights as far as possible.
- Information technology: Policies aimed at regulating the Internet or combating cybercrime may involve restrictions on freedom of expression or online privacy. For example, censorship of certain content or monitoring of communications. These policies can help to maintain order and prevent abuse, but they must be implemented in a way that respects digital rights.
In all these areas, the challenge is to strike the right balance between security and freedom. This often requires a careful assessment of the risks and benefits, judicial oversight to protect fundamental rights, and open public debate to decide where to place the cursor.
Case Study: Energy Efficiency Policy[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
The choice of objectives and instruments is crucial to the implementation of any public policy.
- Objectives define the results that policy-makers hope to achieve. They can be vague or precise, general or specific. The clear definition of precise objectives can help to guide the development and implementation of the policy, to give responsibility to the players involved and to evaluate the effectiveness of the policy. However, objectives that are too specific can also limit flexibility and adaptability, especially in uncertain or changing contexts.
- Instruments are the means by which objectives are achieved. They can vary considerably depending on the context, the resources available and the nature of the problem to be solved. Instruments can include laws and regulations, economic incentives, public services and information campaigns, among others. The choice of instruments depends on many factors, such as their expected effectiveness, their cost, their political acceptability, their impact on rights and freedoms, and so on.
Ultimately, the success of a public policy depends not only on the definition of clear and achievable objectives, but also on the choice of effective and appropriate instruments to achieve them. And that requires careful analysis, strategic planning and constant monitoring.
Energy efficiency is an important public policy issue involving many dimensions, including energy consumption, technology, the economy and the environment. In terms of public policy instruments, several options could be used to achieve energy efficiency objectives, each with varying degrees of constraint and intrusiveness. Let's look at a few examples:
- Self-regulation: Industry players could be encouraged to implement their own measures to increase energy efficiency, such as developing more energy-efficient technologies or improving manufacturing processes. However, this requires a willingness on the part of industry and may not be effective if the economic incentives to do so are not sufficient.
- Information and persuasion: The state could launch information campaigns to raise public awareness of the importance of energy efficiency and provide advice on how to reduce energy consumption. This could include information on energy savings that can be achieved through energy-efficient appliances, home insulation, etc.
- Economic incentives: Subsidies or tax incentives could be offered to encourage individuals and businesses to invest in more energy-efficient technologies. For example, tax reductions could be granted for the purchase of electric vehicles or the installation of solar panels.
- Regulations: Laws and regulations could be introduced to require a certain level of energy efficiency. For example, minimum energy efficiency standards could be set for electrical appliances or new buildings.
- Nationalisation or direct control: In extreme circumstances, the state could take direct control of the energy industries to ensure greater energy efficiency. However, this would be highly intrusive and probably controversial.
Each option has its advantages and disadvantages, and the best approach will probably depend on a combination of these instruments. It is also important to consider the potential economic, environmental and social impacts of each option. Finally, it is crucial to regularly monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the policies put in place so that they can be adjusted if necessary.
The Fukushima incident has undoubtedly had an impact on energy policy in many countries, including Switzerland. It has highlighted the potential risks associated with nuclear power and prompted many governments to re-evaluate their reliance on this energy source. In Switzerland, the government has expressed its intention to phase out nuclear power, although no specific date has been set for this. The issue of Beznau is a delicate one. Safety issues are paramount, and if the report from the Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate indicates that there are problems, this would require serious attention. However, the decision to close a nuclear power plant must take into account a number of factors, including the impact on energy supply, the economic impact, as well as environmental issues. To meet these challenges, the choice of public policy instruments will be crucial. This could include incentives to encourage the development and adoption of renewable energy sources, regulations to improve energy efficiency, and perhaps more intrusive measures if necessary to ensure security. Ultimately, the decision must be based on a careful assessment of the costs, benefits and risks associated with each option.
Promoting energy efficiency is a key strategy for minimising our dependence on non-renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It essentially involves maximising energy efficiency, i.e. obtaining a greater quantity of usable energy from a given quantity of energy consumed. Energy efficiency policies are implemented using a variety of instruments, including the following: Firstly, the state can establish regulations and standards, such as imposing minimum efficiency requirements for electrical appliances and vehicles, or setting construction standards for the energy efficiency of buildings. Secondly, there are economic incentives, which can take the form of subsidies for energy efficiency improvements, low-interest loans for energy efficiency projects, or electricity tariff structures that encourage energy efficiency. Thirdly, awareness and education programmes are also crucial. They inform consumers about the benefits of energy efficiency and how they can improve their energy use. Finally, the state can also invest in research and development to encourage innovation in energy efficiency technologies and support their market introduction. The precise choice of instruments used to promote energy efficiency will depend on the specific conditions and objectives of the policy. Whatever the case, it is certain that energy efficiency will be a major pillar of any strategy to make our energy system more sustainable and less dependent on fossil fuels.
Energy efficiency is a major issue in modern society. It is defined as the ability of a system (be it a computer, a car or even a building) to maximise its energy output. In other words, a highly energy-efficient system is one that uses a small amount of energy to accomplish its task. For example, an efficient computer will use less electricity, just as an efficient car will use less fuel. Today's challenge lies in the fact that we have access to technologies that could considerably improve the energy efficiency of most of our appliances and systems. If we were able to improve the energy efficiency of all these appliances, we could make huge energy savings. This would not only reduce our energy bills, but also our dependence on polluting or non-renewable sources of energy, such as nuclear power. However, despite the existence of these technologies, their adoption is not as widespread as it could be. This can be explained by various obstacles, such as the high initial cost of these technologies, lack of information or awareness, or resistance to change. Part of the solution, therefore, lies in the implementation of public policies that encourage and facilitate the adoption of energy-efficient technologies.
The issue of energy efficiency is not new and has been widely debated since the first oil crisis in the 1970s. Many countries have since sought to adopt policies to promote energy efficiency and address the issue. The challenge lies in the fact that despite the availability of more energy-efficient technologies, a large proportion of appliances and vehicles do not use them. The excessive purchase of appliances and cars that do not use these energy-efficient technologies, despite their technological feasibility and economic rationality, creates a considerable technological backlog. This suggests that even if solutions are technologically available and economically rational, there may be barriers to their implementation. This is precisely where public policy can play a decisive role. By putting in place appropriate instruments, governments can encourage the adoption of more efficient technologies and help to close the technology gap. Effective policies can encourage consumers and businesses to invest in more energy-efficient technologies, thereby contributing to a more efficient use of energy and reducing our dependence on polluting or non-renewable energy sources.
When applying the different categories of instruments to energy efficiency, it can be observed that policies vary considerably from one country to another depending on the target groups identified as being the cause of the problem. Different instruments are used to try to change the behaviour of these target groups. In some countries, for example, individual consumers may be identified as the target group. Policies could therefore aim to encourage energy-saving behaviour through positive incentives, such as subsidies for the purchase of energy-efficient appliances, or negative incentives, such as higher taxes on less energy-efficient appliances. In other countries, the construction or manufacturing sector may be identified as the target group. Policies could then impose stricter energy efficiency standards for new buildings or appliances, or encourage the adoption of more energy-efficient technologies through subsidies or other forms of financial support. Similarly, in other contexts, energy suppliers could be considered the target group. In this case, policies could aim to encourage or compel energy suppliers to invest in more efficient energy sources or to promote energy efficiency among their customers. The effectiveness of these different instruments will depend on many factors, including the specific context of the country, the structure of its economy, its energy resources, and the degree of political acceptability of these measures among the various players concerned.
It's a reality that can be observed in many contexts: the purchaser of an appliance and the end user are not always the same person, and their interests may diverge. This is particularly true in the case of rented accommodation, where the landlord is usually the one who buys the appliances, while the tenant is the one who pays the running costs. The landlord may be tempted to buy the cheapest appliance, which is often also the least energy-efficient. This is because the energy efficiency of an appliance is not usually the landlord's main concern, as he or she will not be directly affected by the running costs of that appliance. On the other hand, the tenant, who pays the electricity bill, often has no control over the choice of appliance. This can lead to a situation where the tenant ends up with an energy-guzzling appliance that has high running costs. There are several ways of solving this problem. For example, governments could consider tax incentives or subsidies to encourage landlords to buy more energy-efficient appliances. Another solution could be to impose minimum energy efficiency standards for appliances used in rental accommodation. Another option would be to educate consumers about the importance of energy efficiency and provide them with clear, easy-to-understand information about the energy consumption of appliances, through energy labels or information campaigns, for example.
Bonus-malus systems can be very effective tools for changing purchasing behaviour and encouraging people to choose more energy-efficient appliances. Under such a system, purchasers who choose energy-efficient appliances receive a bonus, in the form of a subsidy or discount, while those who choose less efficient appliances are subject to a malus, in the form of a tax or additional cost. The beauty of this system is that it makes energy-inefficient choices more expensive for the buyer, while rewarding those who make more sustainable choices. This can be particularly effective when initial cost is a major factor in the purchasing decision, as is often the case with household appliances. What's more, in an ideal configuration, the revenue generated by malus (i.e. taxes on less efficient appliances) can be used to fund bonuses (i.e. subsidies for more efficient appliances). This creates a system that is self-financing while encouraging greener behaviour. However, implementing such a system can present challenges. It is crucial to set the level of bonus and malus at amounts that provide sufficient incentive to change behaviour. In addition, the system must be designed to be easy for consumers to understand and use. It must also be fair and avoid disproportionately penalising low-income households.
It is quite possible that the behaviour of distributors or salespeople also plays an important role in the spread of energy-efficient appliances. Indeed, salespeople can play an important role in the purchasing process by providing information to consumers and guiding them in their choice. If salespeople are not well informed about the energy consumption of the appliances they sell, they will not be able to pass on this information to consumers and convince them of the importance of choosing energy-efficient appliances. One possible solution to this problem would be to set up training programmes for salespeople, to inform them about the importance of energy efficiency and make them aware of how to pass on this information to consumers. These programmes could be run by the government, by energy regulators, or by the appliance manufacturers themselves. In addition, incentives could also be put in place to encourage sellers to promote energy-efficient appliances, for example by offering higher bonuses or commissions for the sale of such appliances. However, it should be stressed that sales training and incentives are just two of the many energy policy instruments that can be used to promote energy efficiency. It is therefore essential to adopt a global approach and combine different instruments to achieve this objective.
Appliance manufacturers play a crucial role in promoting energy efficiency. In fact, they are often at the base of the value chain and therefore have the ability to greatly influence the characteristics of the products that reach the market. It is therefore possible to target producers with different policies and instruments. For example, regulations can be put in place to require minimum levels of energy efficiency for certain appliances. These regulations can be accompanied by reporting requirements and regular checks to ensure compliance. In addition, governments can offer financial incentives to manufacturers to develop and produce more efficient appliances. These incentives can take the form of subsidies, tax credits or soft loans. Finally, voluntary programmes can be set up to encourage producers to go beyond the minimum requirements. These programmes can include energy efficiency labels that allow producers to differentiate their products on the market. All of these approaches have their merits and challenges, and their effectiveness will depend on the specific context of each country and market. It is also important to note that these approaches are not mutually exclusive and can often be used in a complementary way to maximise their impact.
Energy efficiency standards are a powerful public policy tool for encouraging producers to create more energy-efficient products. These standards establish minimum efficiency requirements that all products in a certain category must meet in order to be sold in a specific jurisdiction. These standards are generally set by government agencies and enforced by regulatory authorities. By defining a level of energy efficiency that all appliances in a certain category must achieve, these standards oblige manufacturers to invest in research and development to improve the efficiency of their products. In other words, they force manufacturers to innovate. In addition, energy efficiency standards can help to 'level the playing field' between producers, by ensuring that everyone is held to the same requirements. This can prevent producers who invest in energy efficiency from being at a disadvantage compared with those who do not.
If consumers had a better understanding of how their energy consumption is distributed between the different appliances and systems in their home, they might be more inclined to invest in more efficient technologies and change their behaviour to save energy. However, implementing more detailed electricity bills can present challenges. For a start, it would require energy suppliers to invest in more sophisticated metering and billing technologies. In addition, it could make electricity bills more complicated for consumers, which could be counterproductive if it deters them from reading and understanding them. An alternative could be to provide consumers with tools and resources to measure their energy consumption themselves, for example by selling energy meters for individual appliances or offering apps or websites where consumers can track their energy consumption. Such tools could help consumers understand where they consume the most energy and where they have the greatest potential for savings.
The adoption of different strategies and public policy instruments to address the same problem in different countries illustrates how the unique political, social and economic contexts of each country can influence their approach to managing public problems. In the case of energy efficiency, some countries may choose to focus on consumer awareness and information disclosure, while others may choose to implement economic incentives or stricter regulations for producers. These differences may be the result of factors such as differences in the structure of the energy industry, political culture, public opinion or budgetary constraints. In addition, the timing of the adoption of these policies may also vary according to the political priorities, crises or opportunities specific to each country. For example, one country may choose to implement energy efficiency policies in response to an energy crisis or growing concerns about climate change, while another country may choose to do so as part of a broader strategy to transition to a low-carbon economy. Studying these variations can be highly instructive in understanding how public policies are formulated and implemented, as well as identifying best practices and lessons learned that could be applicable in other contexts.
The United States has been a world leader in introducing energy efficiency regulations since the 1970s. In response to the first oil crisis, it adopted legislative measures to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and improve its energy efficiency. These included the creation in 1975 of the Energy Information Agency (EIA) and the Energy Conservation Administration (ECA), which were charged with promoting energy conservation and setting energy efficiency standards for appliances and vehicles. In 1978, the US Congress passed the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, which introduced energy efficiency standards for automobiles for the first time and created the Energy Star labelling programme. These initiatives laid the foundation for US energy efficiency policy and inspired similar efforts in other countries. However, the approach adopted by the United States is not necessarily applicable in all contexts, and each country must adapt its policies according to its own circumstances and priorities.
Switzerland adopted measures to improve energy efficiency later than some other countries, such as the United States. That said, over the years it has put in place a number of policies and programmes to encourage energy efficiency. For example, Switzerland has adopted energy labelling for household appliances, which helps consumers make more energy-efficient choices when buying new appliances. It has also introduced subsidy programmes and tax incentives to encourage households and businesses to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings and processes. However, unlike other countries such as the United States, Switzerland has not adopted binding energy efficiency standards for appliances or vehicles. This leaves scope for further improvements in energy efficiency in the country. In addition, the Swiss government has adopted the Energy Strategy 2050, which aims to reduce energy consumption, improve energy efficiency and increase the share of renewable energies. The strategy also includes targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, although there was an initial delay in implementing energy efficiency policies, Switzerland is now striving to catch up and position itself as a leader in this field.
Evaluating public policies is a crucial step in determining whether the instruments put in place are effective and meet the objectives set. In the case of energy efficiency, this involves assessing whether measures such as energy labels or energy efficiency standards have a real impact on energy consumption. In general, we tend to think that energy efficiency standards are more effective than energy labels for a number of reasons. Firstly, standards establish a minimum energy performance threshold for appliances and vehicles, which guarantees a certain level of energy efficiency on the market. Secondly, they can encourage manufacturers to innovate and develop more efficient technologies. On the other hand, energy labels rely on the ability and willingness of consumers to use this information to make more energy-efficient choices. However, consumers may not always pay attention to these labels, or may choose other criteria (such as price or brand) over energy performance when purchasing a product. However, this does not mean that energy labels are not useful. They can play an important role in raising consumers' awareness of energy efficiency and can encourage them to choose more energy-efficient products. In addition, they can complement energy efficiency standards by providing consumers with more information. Ultimately, the effectiveness of these instruments depends on many factors, including how they are implemented and monitored, consumer awareness and education, and other policies and incentives in place. A thorough evaluation of these policies can help to understand how they work in practice and how they could be improved.
This curve shows energy efficiency by means of appliance labels. It illustrates the diversity of appliances in terms of energy consumption, ranging from those that use very little electricity to get the job done, to those that are the least efficient and consume the most electricity for the same output. Ideally, in the long term, we aspire to an environment where all appliances are low-consumption. This aspiration is not only technological, but also economic, environmental and energy-related - everyone would benefit. Energy efficiency pays off in the long term, and allows the benefits of the most advanced technologies to be exploited.
The graph shows how sales of electrical appliances have changed over time. The data represented by year shows the distribution of sales before the introduction of the energy label - the bar on the far left of the graph. It can be seen that before the introduction of the label, many of the appliances sold were real energy guzzlers, and very few energy-efficient appliances were available on the market. This describes the energy consumption landscape prior to the introduction of energy labels.
The fundamental question is whether the introduction of energy labels has succeeded in influencing consumer behaviour and steering the market towards the sale of more energy-efficient appliances. The curve in black illustrates the situation five years after the introduction of energy labels. We can see a shift in the curve towards more energy-efficient appliances. At the end of this period, there are significantly more energy-efficient appliances being sold than at the start, while sales of energy-hungry appliances have fallen. This trend shows that the market can be transformed by something as simple as informing consumers about energy consumption as a criterion for choosing an appliance.
It should be noted that this curve does not only reflect the impact of energy labels. Other measures have also been put in place at European Union level, notably energy efficiency standards. Typically, these standards set an energy consumption threshold. All appliances exceeding this threshold are no longer authorised to be marketed. Gradually, this threshold is adjusted in favour of greater energy efficiency, eventually prohibiting the marketing of all appliances that do not meet these new requirements. This strategy continues to encourage the development of increasingly energy-efficient household appliances, office equipment and vehicles. These trends have been observed in the United States, Japan, the Nordic countries, Europe and Switzerland.
Comparative Analysis of Public Problem Solving Approaches[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
How can it be explained that different countries, faced with the same challenge of energy efficiency, are developing different policy responses? Policy instruments are not adopted simultaneously and the type or mix of these instruments differs from one country to another. What could account for these differences between countries? Various hypotheses can be put forward to explain the choice of public policy instruments. We will look at four of them.
Influence of Political Ideology on the Degree of Constraint[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
As a general rule, a policy instrument is only adopted if its degree of constraint is compatible with the ideology of the majority in power. In other words, the choice of a particular instrument is often a reflection of the dominant values and beliefs within the government and the population at large at any given time. This is why we see variations in policy approaches between different countries - each country has its own set of values and beliefs, which can influence how they approach common issues such as energy efficiency.
The dominant political ideology at any given time can influence the type of policy instruments put in place. For example, a centre-right government may favour information instruments, whereas a left-wing government might be more inclined to introduce incentive instruments such as taxes or binding standards. In the case of the United States, this is a very instructive example. Binding standards were introduced in 1978 by President Carter, who was supported by a Democratic majority. This corresponded to a political context that was more favourable to greater government intervention. However, when President Reagan, who was right-wing, took office in 1981, he tried to block the application of these standards. However, the courts eventually forced him to apply them, demonstrating that public policy choices can be influenced not only by political ideology, but also by other factors, such as the legal system.
The selection of public policy instruments is often influenced by the ideological convictions of the political parties in power. Parties with a more interventionist ideology and in favour of a more active role for the state are likely to favour more restrictive policy instruments to achieve their objectives. Conversely, parties that favour minimal state intervention in the economy are likely to prefer less restrictive instruments, such as information and encouragement, rather than strict regulations or taxes. It should be stressed, however, that many other factors can also influence the choice of instruments, including the socio-economic context, pressure from interest groups and the climate of public opinion. In addition, the political and legislative realities specific to each country can also play a role, as shown by the example of energy policy in the United States under the Carter and Reagan administrations.
Role of the Target Group's Structure and Organisation[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
The structure and organisation of the target group can have a significant impact on how a policy is formulated and implemented. Well-organised target groups, such as specific industries or professional associations, may be easier to reach with certain policies, as they have structures in place to communicate with their members and implement change. They may also be better able to lobby for or against certain policies. On the other hand, less organised target groups, such as the general public or specific segments of the population, may require different approaches. For example, public education and awareness-raising can be key tools for reaching these groups. In addition, the relationship between the target group and the government can also influence policy. For example, if a government has a positive working relationship with a target group, it may be easier to implement policies. However, if the relationship is strained, this can make policy implementation more difficult.
The organisation and influence of different target groups play a major role in the process of formulating public policy. Consumers, although in the majority, are often less organised and therefore have less influence in this process. On the other hand, producers, thanks to their strong organisation and economic power, generally have a much more significant influence. They are able to put pressure on political decision-makers, either to prevent the adoption of certain measures that could harm their interests, or to put forward their points of view. For example, in the case of energy efficiency standards for household appliances, producers can try to avoid or delay the adoption of stricter standards that would require significant investment in research and development of new technologies. They may also seek to influence the wording of these standards so that they are less restrictive for their current production. It is important for political decision-makers to take these dynamics into account when formulating public policies and to ensure a balance between the various interests at stake.
The analysis of stakeholders and interest groups is an essential component of public policy development. The choice of policy instruments cannot be understood without a precise understanding of the dynamics between these players. Interest groups, which may include actors such as producers, consumers, distributors and NGOs, among others, have distinct and often competing interests. Each of these groups has its own objectives and resources, and can exert varying degrees of pressure on the political process. It is by taking these dynamics into account and negotiating between the various interests at stake that policy-makers can develop policies that are not only effective in terms of achieving their objectives, but also politically viable. In other words, interest group analysis is essential to understanding how policy instruments are chosen and how they can be implemented effectively.
Competition or International Harmonisation[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
International competition and harmonisation are key factors in the choice of public policy instruments. International competition can encourage countries to adopt specific policies to attract investment, improve their economic competitiveness, or simply not be left behind. For example, if a neighbouring country implements successful energy efficiency policies that generate economic and environmental benefits, this may encourage other countries to adopt similar measures so as not to be left behind. On the other hand, international harmonisation, often promoted by international organisations or multilateral agreements, seeks to establish common standards to facilitate cooperation and international trade. In the field of energy efficiency, this could mean the adoption of common efficiency standards for electrical appliances, which would facilitate trade between countries. These factors can act as powerful driving forces for the choice and adoption of policy instruments. However, they need to be balanced with the internal conditions and needs of each country.
The classic example is the so-called "California effect" or "race to the top effect". The idea is that a large market like California (or, in the example, the United States) can set high standards that go beyond federal or international regulations. Because of the large size of this market, producers often have an interest in meeting these high standards, even if they sell their products in other regions where standards are less stringent. This can lead to a 'race to the top' where other jurisdictions adopt higher standards to remain competitive. In this example, US producers of energy-inefficient appliances began exporting their products to Canada, where standards were less stringent. This had a negative impact on the Canadian environment, and probably created pressure on Canadian producers who had to compete with these cheaper but less efficient products. In response, Canada adopted standards similar to those in the United States to protect its market and its environment. This is an example of how regulatory harmonisation can occur in response to international economic and environmental competition.
To implement an energy policy effectively, it is crucial to have a competent and dedicated administration. This administration must be capable of managing the regulations, monitoring their implementation, evaluating their effectiveness and adapting the regulations accordingly. This administration may be at local, regional, national or even supranational level, as is the case with the European Commission for the Member States of the European Union. The precise nature of the authority will depend on the characteristics of the country, the type of energy policy adopted and the level of government responsible for energy policy. The energy administration will also need to work closely with other stakeholders, such as energy suppliers, consumers, environmental groups and regulators, to ensure that energy policy is implemented effectively. This is a complex process that requires good coordination, communication and technical expertise.
When the first energy efficiency instruments were adopted in 1973 and 1974, many countries did not yet have dedicated energy departments or offices. At that time, these policies were often managed by the external affairs or trade departments. Over time, energy administrations were created, followed by specific energy demand management administrations. More recently, with the emergence of the concept of sustainable development in 1987 and 1992 and following the Rio Conference, we have seen the emergence of administrative structures dedicated to this field. These new structures are essential for the effective implementation of energy policies. A striking example of the importance of effective administration is the introduction of energy labels in Canada. Initially, the law did not specify where these labels were to be affixed, which led manufacturers to stick them on the underside of appliances such as fridges and washing machines, thus technically complying with the law but making the information less visible to consumers. This highlights the importance of having an administration capable of monitoring and correcting the implementation of policies to ensure their effectiveness.
Annnexes[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
References[modifier | modifier le wikicode]
- Baumgartner, F. R., De Boef, S. L., & Boydstun, A. E. (2001). The Decline of the Death Penalty and the Discovery of Innocence. Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/cbo9780511790638
- Aubert, M. (1984). The limits of Swiss banking secrecy under domestic and international law. Int'l Tax & Bus. Law., 2, 273.