Research and Analysis of Politics

An important area to you as a political science major is learning about all the ways in which pertinent research is carried out, and results obtained, organized, and, finally, analyzed. In particular, policy analysis chooses from among these methods to consider which is most useful in evaluating policies and their outcomes.

Policy analysis can be looked at from two points of view.

The first uses analysis and description with the goal of clarifying or explaining an existing policy. The second uses analysis of pertinent data in proposals aimed at creating new policy with a specific goal. It is likely that your political science program will merge program evaluation with the analysis of policy into a single set of classes concerned with studying policy via three approaches: the policy process approach, the meta-policy approach, and the analycentric approach.

The policy process approach looks at issues or problems in a political process through a wide lens to identify the degree of influence the stakeholders possess and the role they play in order to determine how solutions can be located by a shift in power.

The meta-policy approach considers both the structure of the system under examination and context in order to determine and resolve problems in interpretation. If this type of approach is successful, the problem is located within the system’s architecture and can be resolved by reconfiguring the structure itself.

Using the analycentric approach, a unique policy issue is examined under the microscope. This approach is most useful when the problem under examination is technical in character. The analycentric approach to resolving policy issues seeks the most efficient and therefore economic resolution.

As a political science major, you’ll learn that both qualitative and quantitative means can be useful. These will include statistical analysis, case studies, surveys, and creating models.

Among commonly used models is the institutional model, in which a political organization creates public policy, thereby bestowing legitimacy upon it. An example of this is found in the three branches of our own government that grant authority to any area of public policy.

Another model is the process model. This finds that policy is generated through a series of steps. The first step is to identify a problem that requires governmental response. The second step in this model is the gathering of proposals via multiple avenues, such as from public interest groups, think tanks, and legislative committees. The third step, called policy legitimating, is to select from among the proposals in order to construct and establish policy. Following this step, the policy is put into practice. The final step in this process involves evaluating the outcome of the policy. It should be noted that this model is an ideal. In practice, the process is rarely this linear; steps can overlap or be ignored.

The rational model is applied in both public policymaking and the private sector. It begins by assuming that the system under examination is stable; that the government is recognized as rational; that the policy problem being studied is clear; and that neither time nor expense is a factor that will compromise the application of the model. These factors in combination assure that the decision arrived at will logically be the best and most stable solution.

Another model is the group model, in which the political system creating the policy considers the conflicting needs and desires of two or more subgroups in order to determine those compromises that will resolve differences successfully.

In the elite model, public policy is found to serve social groups or individuals with the greatest power and wealth, rather than those with the greatest need. This model does not attend to citizen demands, regardless of number of citizens.

The six-step model, like the process model, is an ideal that in practice is often not so linear. The steps, in order, include discovering the problem and detailing its nature; determining the criteria to be used in evaluating the problem; identifying potential alternatives to the policy under consideration; evaluating those alternatives; adjusting current policy; and ongoing assessment of the newly created and implemented policy.

Last Updated: 05/22/2014

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