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Study to investigate how public policies are communicated

  • Date

    Tue 22 Dec 20

Philip Leifeld

Who decides how political ideas are ‘framed,’ and how the resulting policies are communicated to those affected by them?

Political issues are rarely presented objectively. Instead, they are “framed” with certain aspects highlighted and others given less prominence, as a way of influencing how voters think about the issue.

Existing research has focused on what makes a frame persuasive, but a new international study, involving Professor Philip Leifeld, from the Department of Government at the University of Essex,  will take a step back and explore where frames come from, who chooses them, and how they circulate among political actors.

Professor Leifeld explained what the study hopes to achieve: “Political actors try to set the agenda by putting their stories out there on what policies are best equipped to tackle a problem and why.

“Others may take up their views or reject them, and this leads to a complex system of statements in the media and other channels. We need to investigate how this happens if we want to understand why some policies end up on the parliamentary agenda while others are discarded early in the process.

“This major funding allows us to identify and model the mechanisms by which political actors adopt frames using tools from network science and the study of complex systems.”

The project, involves academics from the UK, Canada and Germany and will look at the emergence of frames in five areas of political debate: international trade, immigration, the environment, global health and transparency.

By interviewing key political actors in each debate the project will explore why actors choose the political arguments they use, and what factors influence their choices. Comparisons will be made between counties and themes.

The team includes Dr Ozlem Atikcan from the University of Warwick, Professor Philip Leifeld from the University of Essex and Dr Kerem Öge from Aston University in the UK, Professor Anna Holzscheiter from the Technical University of Dresden, Professor Jean Frédéric Morin and Dr Yannick Dufresne from Laval University in Canada.and Dr Clara Brandi from the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut fur Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) - one of the leading think tanks for global development policy.

The £1 million project is funded jointly by the ESRC in the UK, DFG in Germany, and SSHRC in Canada.