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reading assignments of Week 3 focus on integral aspects of the Advocacy
Coalition Framework (ACF). The ACF is an attempt to move the research field
towards a testable theory in order to capture instances of policy change among
actors over time (Sabatier 1988; Nohrstedt 2009; Weible and Sabatier 2009). The
ACF has three main premises. The first premise holds that policy changes or
stability must be examined through longitudinal studies of a decade or more
(Sabatier 1988; 1991). The second premise focuses on policy subsystems as the basic
unit of analysis, encompassing both private and public actors aggregated into
advocacy coalitions based on the actors’ shared normative and causal beliefs
(Sabatier 1988; 1991). The third premise conceptualizes policy policies as a
system of beliefs, including “value priorities, perceptions of important causal
relationships, perceptions of world states, perceptions of the efficacy of
policy instruments, etc.” (Sabatier 1988, 132). The ACF holds that the belief
system provides a path to assess the impact of different actors on the policy
process over time (Sabatier 1988). The ACF also holds that external system
events and stable system parameters will influence the constraints and resources
of actors in the policy subsystem (Sabatier 1988). Thus, policy change occurs
from internal and external dynamics which ultimately cause coalitions to modify
its strategy.

            The Weible and Sabatier (2009)
article focuses on two distinct periods among policy subsystems in the Tahoe
Basin controversy: 1984, the most adversarial period; and 2001, the most collaborative
period between policy subsystems (200). Two questionnaires were distributed in
1984 and in 2001 with public and private actors (200). These questionnaires were
designed to gauge changes in three levels of the belief system: deep core
beliefs, policy core beliefs, and secondary beliefs (197). The results provided
support for the authors’ first hypothesis that in a collaborative policy
subsystems, policy participants “from converging advocacy coalitions will
converge in policy and core beliefs” (198). While this article attempts to
adhere to the three premises of ACF, the study is not devoid of criticisms.
First, the study focuses on questionnaire responses from two different years.
This, in-of-itself, is not longitudinal and does not present a significant time
perspective required for ACF. Second, while the study includes various policy
participants, these policy participants are different in the years under
examination. As such, we cannot adequately gauge the reasons behind convergence
of policy and core beliefs, for it could just be caused by new policy
participants rather than the creation of a collaborative system. Furthermore,
one could argue that external changes do not always lead to policy change.

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            The Sabatier, Hunter, and McLaughlin
(1986) article also examines the Tahoe Basin controversy using the same dataset
as Weible and Sabatier (2009). Sabatier et al. (1986), however, examine what is
referred to as the “devil shift” (450). One could argue that the devil shift is
an example of an adversarial policy subsystem as opponents exaggerate their
adversaries’ influence, negative aspects, and try to gauge their opponents’
motives and resources (449-450). Thus, actors will overestimate their opponents’
influence and motives and, as a result, actors will take problematic paths to
secure their own interests. This leads to misperceptions of one’s influence and
beliefs. Furthermore, the authors note that private actors were less likely to
question private actors with opposing beliefs in comparison to questioning
political leaders. To this end, one could argue that examining policy participants’
leverage in the subsystem is an important aspect to measure as adversarial and
collaborative shifts. The ACF also assumes that coalitions are homogenous,
however, actors’ have their own interests that they try to serve when
threatened by an opponent’s level of power and malevolence.

            Nohrstedt (2009) article attempts to
test the ACF’s generalizability. The author examines the ACF’s assumptions regarding
Sweden’s nuclear energy policy. Nohrstedt (2009) studies 116 private and public
policy participants on nuclear energy policy by examining government
legislation, opinion statements, and party motions from 1970 to 1991 (313). The
results indicate that advocacy coalitions are stable over time and that coalitions
centered on policy core beliefs are more stable than coalitions focused on secondary
beliefs (327). As such, the study provides support for ACF assumptions outside
the U.S. One could argue that this article attempts to apply the ACF
assumptions in a more adequate fashion. Although it has a small n, the study includes a wide array of
actors over a series of years to examine nuclear energy policy change instead
of the two years studied by Weible and Sabatier (2009). However, the ACF faces
several limitations in this study. First, Nohrstedt (2009) is examining
coalition stability yet the ACF does not provide a measure for coalition stability.
Second, ACF ignores the influence of partisan politics on highly politicized
subsystems. As such, Nohrstedt (2009) argues that the ACF should distinguish
between interests and motives (325). Third, ACF treats coalitions as if they
are homogenous, ignoring the authority and power some actors exercise to attain
coalition success.

            Joslyn and Haider-Markel (2013)
examine causal attributions that impact actors’ belief systems immediately
after tragedy. The authors use two national surveys following the Virginia Tech
and the Tucson shootings (Joslyn and Haider-Markel 2013). However, they focus
on the attributional differences between Democrats and Republicans. As such, the
results indicate that party affiliation and education impact causal
attributions for both shootings (Joslyn and Haider-Markel 2013). However, when
educated respondents are presented with information that conflicts with their
party identification, their causal attributions will be driven by their party
ideologies (421). Although the findings demonstrate an important aspect that is
arguably overlooked, party attachments as it relates to deep core beliefs
highlights one of the assumptions of the ACF: policy-oriented learning is
rarely applicable to deep core beliefs due to cognitive constraints (Weible and
Sabatier 2013). 

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