Agenda Setting and Acid Precipitation in the United States

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The objective of this research was to analyze the retention of acid precipitation as a viable policy issue on the Congressional agenda during the 1980s. Issue maintenance (a term borrowed from Barbara Nelson's discussion of the four stages associated with agenda decision making) was examined in relation to a set of issue characteristics originally developed by Roger Cobb and Charles Elder, i.e., concreteness, social significance, temporal relevance, complexity, and categorical precedence. Each issue attribute was found to be somewhat useful in explaining the longevity of acid rain as an agenda item although the direction of influence for two factors, complexity and temporal relevance, was contrary to expectations. It was suggested that a conceptual merger of this sort could contribute to the comparative analysis of the agenda policy decisions by providing a clearer and more restricted set of decision points to be explained.