The Journal of Politics


The Variable Politics of the Policy Process: Issue-Area Differences and Comparative Networks

Matt Grossmann

Michigan State University


The politics of policy-issue areas differ in multiple ways, including the venues where policies are enacted, the frequency and type of policy development, the relative importance of different circumstantial factors in policy change, the composition of participants in policymaking, and the structure of issue networks. The differences cannot be summarized by typologies because each issue area differs substantially from the norm on only a few distinct characteristics. To understand these commonalities and differences, I aggregate information from 231 books and 37 articles that review the history of American domestic policy in 14 issue areas from 1945 to 2004. The histories collectively uncover 790 notable policy enactments and credit 1,306 actors for their role in policy development. The politics of each issue area stand out in a few important but unrelated aspects.


  Matt Grossmann is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48823.