Analysis of the Politics of Problem Definition


Comprehending the professionals and cons of issues becoming open public problems is the clue to understanding the plan of action and agenda setting up. In the American system there are issues such as poverty, collateral, violence, drug abuse, etc. which continuously encroaches on the system but only few can be regarded as public problems and be a account for public agenda. Factors like enlargement of involvement and concern characteristics are responsible for a problem to be public. The study assesses the situation definition process utilizing a threshold model of collective behavior. That is based critically on a person's threshold of abstinence from the conditions across culture. Expectation of the amount of individuals who have previously crossed the threshold or are likely to cross it influences the inclination of people to mix the non-acceptance threshold. To grasp this, a theoretical framework to the erotic harassment problem and Clarence Thomas Supreme Court docket nomination hearings has been utilized. It's been tested with factual data for statistical diagnosis to an array of collective behavior.


A large number of conditions such as pollution, craving for food, smoking and child maltreatment have plagued America through time but there's been no general public disclosure to identify them as problem. Therefore a divorce prevails between objective conditions and problem definitions. Citizens examine conditions at specific levels. Social influences, values, culture and norms cause a person to truly have a neutral or beneficial response to the existing conditions. Understanding of objective costs, benefits of a specific condition may differ in individuals and are evaluated accordingly. When the costs of tolerating the conditions become enough, a person will mix the threshold of public non-acceptance.


The visual representation of the threshold model is employed to comprehend collective tendencies. Here,

  • p = individual's expectation of the percentage of the population that does not publicly oppose the condition
  • Oi = private examination of the condition based on the percentage of costs to gain plus costs of the condition.

The private assessment is Oi and expected public non acceptance (1-p). The heavy series symbolizes the threshold of which individuals with different costs and objectives of interpersonal non-acceptance are precisely indifferent between publicly receiving versus non-accepting the condition. The space left reveals individuals publicly receiving the problem and the right expresses non-acceptance.

In fig. 1 individuals who privately assess the expenses of the problem move to open public non-acceptance only when they have prospects that the proportion of sociable non-acceptance is better. When Oi=1, percentage of (1-p) is higher than 0. 40 so when Oi=0. 75, percentage of (1-p) is larger than 0. 50. If multimedia educate the general public about the costs and benefits of the conditions you will see changed problem definition. As individuals adjust their private assessments, the slope of the function representing the syndication of threshold, changes. In fig. 2 if Oi=0. 75 then (1-p) exceeds 0. 30 so when Oi=0. 50 expected (1-p) surpasses to 0. 50 to oppose the condition. The advertising makes the setting up more useful to changing problem explanation by changing the circulation of thresholds for folks. In fig. 3 a cumulative density function of cultural non popularity (the dashed series) is superimposed onto the threshold function depicted previously. The upper horizontal axis indicates actual social non-acceptance after cost benefit evaluations.

This diagram implies that there is vast space between private cost-benefit analysis and open public positions. The steady equilibria level mentioned may alter to change in factual data made available by media, political market leaders. Problem reevaluation occurs within an interspersed manner because of the swift switch from point of equilibria to some other. Screening the applicability of such models is difficult because of exact data requirements aggregate data may be used to analyze to crossing of the threshold levels of non-acceptance. The need for the feedback mechanism has also been suggested.


The feminist movements in the past due 1970s termed the exploitation of women by men at work as sexual harassment. This is emphasized by women's groupings who started to educate and garner their support. Statistics reveal that prior to the Clarence Thomas Supreme Courtroom nomination hearings; intimate harassment in work area was common in America. The Thomas nomination hearings in September and October 1991 drastically altered the political circumstance on the issue of sexual harassment. Thomas, a conservative African American, a member of the US Court docket of Appeals for the Region of Columbia was nominated as a Justice of the Supreme Courtroom. The Senate Judiciary Committee held eight days of reading on the nomination. The nomination was delivered to the full Senate without a recommendation. Before the scheduled vote, the National Community Radio broadcasted a story that spread speedily. Anita Hill, a colleague of Thomas alleged sexual harassment against him. Intense pressure from general public groups and passions culminated in the postponement schedules votes to research charges. Since the hearings were televised nationally, Us citizens became more educated and aware of the issue. The hearing concluded with public view swaying in Thomas' way and he was confirmed by a thin margin as a Supreme Court Justice. Concurrently it was a failure of the women's motion to remedy the issue of intimate harassment and it might be tolerated and the ones making the allegations failed to produce change. The give attention to the issue improved citizen mobilization enhanced.

The EEOC data confirmed equilibrium prior to the hearing. The increase in the number of charges filed corresponded with the timings of the ability to hear. It was apparent that a new higher equilibrium of charges submitted was attained. Thus, the cascading process denoted in fig. 3 was at work since there is inertial activity to a fresh equilibrium. There is no opinions prior or after the hearing. Before the hearings increased prior charges and successes resulted in fewer new charges. This shows that negative feedback managed the pre involvement equilibrium. After the hearings increased prior charges and successes produced new charges and successes. This suggests a cascading result to the new equilibrium. Before the hearings and improve media focus on erotic harassment actually produced few charges but following the hearings the effect of the press attention on new charges had a vibrant escalation.


This research has amalgamated the individual analysis of costs and benefits with data and interpersonal forces resulting in a vibrant change in collective behavior which is best illustrated by using threshold style of collective action and syndication of individuals' thresholds of non-acceptance on the conditions in population. The application of this was discussed through the Thomas Supreme Judge Nomination hearings. Emphasis of multimedia and public led to more charges, more successes and increase of advertising attention. Thus in conclusion it could be said that will there be is a pre-existing condition that lots of find privately costly, with widespread public acceptance, the system is ready for a metamorphosis. Since there's a multitude of such conditions prevalent in America at one time and disturbances are likely to happen and changes in the American political system will be there always.


Dan Lumber, B. , & Doan, A. (2003). The politics of problem explanation: applying and tests threshold models. North american Journal of Political Science, 47(4), 640-653.

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