After Disaster: Agenda Setting, Public Policy, and Focusing Events

By Thomas A. Birkland | Go to book overview

APPENDIX
Comments on the Method

In the models discussed in this book, the dependent variables are measures of congressional and news media agenda activity. I will discuss the construction of this variable. The independent variables listed in Table A-3 are derived from publicly available data on population, damage, event seriousness, and the like. The Testimony Database is the database constructed by reading and coding hearings in the respective policy domains. Congressional hearings were isolated by using the Congressional Information Service (CIS) CD-ROM database. All hearings are coded in a domain for the period under study, except for routine appropriations hearings, which are not included because they are regularly scheduled events in the budget cycle that change very little from year to year. The earthquake and hurricane data sets include data on events that occurred from 1960 to 1990, so the actual span of the data is from 1958, at the earliest, to 1992 at the latest. This allows us to capture preevent as well as postevent activity. The oil spill database contains events from 1968 to 1990, and the nuclear power database includes events from 1977 to 1990.

In the news activity analysis, zero-order correlation coefficients are used to allow for comparisons of the sign and magnitude of the variables, while the adjusted R2 of the regression model is provided to assess the overall variance explained by the variables taken together. I also show the congressional agenda models using the same variables for comparative purposes. The congressional activity models are ordinary least squares (OLS) regression models. Any transformations made to variables to meet the assumptions of OLS regression (in particular, near-normally distributed variables) are indicated in Table A-3.


COMMENT ON THE AGENDA DENSITY VARIABLE

In chapter 2 I theorize that agenda activity (both institutional and media) is a function of a number of factors, grouped together in event attribute and political models. In understanding focusing events, the

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