Comparing Issue Attention in the United States and Denmark
New article shows effect of different institutions on public policy
Posted: November 9, 2009
Michelle Wolfe, a government graduate student, with Christoffer Green-Pedersen, from Aarhus University in Denmark, has published an article explaining different levels of attention to environmental issues in the American and Danish political systems. Measuring issue attention in the United States by the percentage of total congressional hearings devoted to the environment, and in Denmark by the length of parliamentary debates, Wolfe and Green-Pedersen compare the years 1961-2005 in both countries. They find that political attention is harder to come by in the Danish parliamentary system, but once it comes, that attention becomes more strongly institutionalized than in the United States.
The Danish political system became attentive to environmental issues later than the U.S. system, but after the environment emerged on the Danish political agenda, the issue became an established part of stable partisan conflict. Attention is harder to generate in Denmark than in the United States, but once the issue grabbed the Danish parties’ attention, they did not let go. In contrast, environmental politics in the United States have been characterized by periodic bursts of attention that subsequently recede. The U.S. system is more open, but less stable than the Danish system. The American political system is more open to new issues, but precisely because of that, it is harder to institutionalize political attention to those issues.
The article, “The Institutionalization of Environmental Attention in the United States and Denmark: Multiple- versus Single-Venue Systems,” appeared in the October issue of Governance: An International Journal of Policy, Administration, and Institutions.