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Agendas, issue prioritization and the media

One of our goals is to analyze the interaction between the political agenda, the media and public opinion across time. To do that, we identify (1) the issues capture the attention by policy-makers in the parliamentarian and governmental arenas at the national and regional level; (2) the issues that are capturing the attention in the front-pages of the most important newspapers, (3) the policy actors that are mentioned in the news, and (4) the issues that Spanish citizens identify as the most important across the last decades. These databases are the point of departure for developing theoretically driven analysis about policy dynamics, and the role of the media in the functioning of democracy.

Political representation in multilevel systems of governance

This project is also aimed to explain to what extend variations in issue prioritization by governmental and parliamentary actors follow public preferences, whether policymakers are attentive to the prioritization of issues by the Spanish citizens and to what extend political elites follow their policy promises as defined during the electoral campaigns. This line of research is aimed to increase our understanding of how political representation in Spain diverge from other countries, and how institutional factors –mainly the consolidation of multilevel systems of governance, and the delegation of political autonomy upward to the EU and downwards to regional governments— have altered political responsiveness across time.

Gender issues and political representation

The project also analyzes the impact of gender in the policy making process. We are aimed to explain to what extend the increasing numbers of elected women make a difference in the political agenda; whether important differences exist in the pattern of issue prioritization by male and female policymakers, and whether these differences are declining across time. We take into account as explanatory variables not only affirmative action policies but also barriers imposed by cultural and institutional factors, and policy preferences.

Interest groups in the governmental and parliamentary arenas, and the media

We are developing a new dataset about the mobilization of interest organizations in the parliamentarian and governmental arenas, and also the media and social media.. This means to identify which interest organizations participate in the discussions of Parliamentary committees, and governmental commissions, which interest organizations, get access to newspapers, and how they use the social media as a new venue for mobilization. We also identify variations across time, type of organizations and policy issues. These datasets are aimed to fill the lack of data about interest groups participation in the policymaking process. They are also the point of departure to develop theoretically driven research about interest groups going beyond case studies. We develop this line of research in collaboration with the Intereuro (www.intereeuro.eu).

Europeanization

Policy dynamics occur in a context of multilevel governance where EU institutions have an increasing role as agenda setters. The goal of Europeanization research is to analyze (1) the impact of the EU on the domestic political agenda contributing to the democratic deficit debate: to what extent the EU influences the domestic legislative agenda and changes in government-parliament relations; (2) the politicization of EU affairs: by combining agenda setting and Europeanization literature we analyze attention to EU affairs considering changes in public opinion, party conflict over EU affairs, institutional factors and agenda features; (3) the relationship between the media and the public agenda: given the distance and complexity of EU politics, media communication is crucial as most of what Europeans know about the EU comes from their own news media. The goal is to go beyond issue attention by identifying how the media frame EU affairs, to compare media frames across media outlets and countries and to analyze how media coverage affect public perceptions of European integration.

Policy Convergence

Why priorization of issues does differ across countries and sub-national governments? Another goal of the project is to increase our understanding of policy convergence by identifying the similarities and divergences in the prioritization of issues among countries and policy areas. The project focuses in different policy areas: morality politics (abortion, stem-cells research, assisted reproduction techniques, euthanasia, and same-sex marriage), foreign aid policy, terrorism and national security, health policy (with a special regard to pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and food safety), and education in different countries. These policy areas have experienced radical transformations from the late seventies –pe.gender issues, the role of the Catholic Church, food safety scandals- and have generated an intense political debate that in some cases have caused radical policy changes. Our goal is to analyze how and why these changes occur across policy areas and across countries.