Specific and General Policy Issues Presented
in 1977 –1978 Communications
Aside from the amount of space given to policy concerns as well as the number of items presented, it is important to evaluate the actual issues raised in order to assess the breadth of the environmental agendas set by the group leaders. Obviously, the sheer magnitude of the policy content in these interest group communications says much about the significance given the agenda-setting process. But by looking at the general and specific issues presented, one can more easily assess the degree to which an agenda is set and the breadth of issues upon which leaders requested membership activity.
In 1977–1978 the National Wildlife Federation possessed a comparatively weak environmental agenda, at least in the communications process with its members. Salient issues included: the Alaska Lands bill (HR39, S1500), Water Projects (all five organizations mention these two issues), the Carter Energy Package, Repeal of the 1872 Mining Laws, Redwoods Park Expansion, strip-mining, and the Tellico Dam (cf., media coverage presented in chapter 2). No issue seems to dominate the agenda even though the organization's actual issue agenda is quite broad. Moreover, general issues include a variety of policy concerns, with no clear direction.
In many cases, the specific policy issues were presented retrospectively; issues were raised after legislative action had occurred. Final outcomes were reported, leaving members no chance to react to the issues. Concerning items about which members were asked to contact congressmen or executive officials, there were never more than one request for such action on a specific issue (although on the water projects issue members were asked to write to members of Congress and to the president). It is difficult to discern any pattern of salience among the issues. One must remember, however, that in the case of NWF, there is no intent to use the magazine for ac