Public inquiries are ad hoc institutions, formally external to the executive branch, established by governments or a minister for the task of investigating crises, policy failures, or disasters. Inquiries play an important role in the aftermath of crisis by serving as instruments of accountability and policy learning. Yet the very existence and function of public inquiries are shaped by post crisis politics, in which public and politically independent inquiries create risks to potentially implicated players, who seek to avoid and mitigate potential blame. The blame-avoidance literature indeed provides a useful theoretical framework for the study of public inquiries. Empirical studies suggest that blame-attribution patterns are predictive of the political decision of whether to appoint an inquiry into a crisis. Studies of the effects of inquiries on public opinion show that, at the investigation stage, the institutional attributes of inquiries foster their legitimacy as a procedure for policy learning and accountability. However, after an inquiry reports its findings, members of the public can evaluate the report, rendering institutional attributes negligible in evaluating the inquiry. As for the effects of inquiries on the public agenda, existing evidence provides no support for a quantitative effect of inquiry appointment on the level of media coverage of a crisis. An integrated analysis of these findings offers an up-to-date theory of the political role of post crisis inquiries and points to some current gaps in our understanding of them.
Climate change is increasingly being framed as a “climate crisis.” Such a crisis could be viewed both to unfold in the climate system, as well as to be induced by it in diverse areas of society. Following from current understandings of modern crises, it is clear that climate change indeed can be defined as a “crisis.” As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 1.5oC special report elaborates, the repercussions of a warming planet include increased food insecurity, increased frequency and intensity of severe droughts, extreme heat waves, the loss of coral reef ecosystems and associated marine species, and more. It is also important to note that a range of possible climate-induced crises (through, e.g., possible increased food insecurity and weather extremes) will not be distributed evenly, but will instead disproportionally affect already vulnerable social groups, communities, and countries in detrimental ways. The multifaceted dimensions of climate change allow for multiple interpretations and framings of “climate crisis,” thereby forcing us to acknowledge the deeply contextual nature of what is understood as a “crisis.” Climate change and its associated crises display a number of challenging properties that stem from its connections to basically all sectors in society, its propensity to induce and in itself embed nonlinear changes such as “tipping points” and cascading shocks, and its unique and challenging long-term temporal dimensions. The latter pose particularly difficult decision-making and institutional challenges because initial conditions (in this case, carbon dioxide emissions) do not result in immediate or proportional responses (say, global temperature anomalies), but instead play out through feedbacks among the climate system, oceans, the cryosphere, and changes in forest biomes, with some considerable delays in time. Additional challenges emerge from the fact that early warnings of pending so-called “catastrophic shifts” face numerous obstacles, and that early responses are undermined by a lack of knowledge, complex causality, and severe coordination challenges.
Survey evidence indicates that political corruption is more prevalent in Africa than in any other global region, though there is also evidence of considerable variation between countries in degrees of corruption and where it is most likely to be located. Traditional explanations for the frequency of corrupt political behavior emphasized the effects of conflicting values that were a consequence of the imposition of modern forms of bureaucratic government upon societies in which authority rested upon personalized relationships. Contemporary African corruption’s historic roots and its variation across the continent may be the effect of the disjuncture or “incongruency” between colonial and successor postcolonial states and the precolonial political settings upon which they were imposed. Modern neo-patrimonialism is a coping response by rulers and citizens to conditions fostered by economic scarcity and institutional incapacity. Since the 1990s, democratization and liberalization have supplied fresh incentives and opportunities for venal politicians and officials. And even among Africa’s more capable and resourceful states, the institutional fluidity generated by democratic transition and economic reform has opened up possibilities of systematically organized state capture. Consequences of corruption certainly further impoverish poor people, and it is likely that corruption also limits economic growth and distorts government efforts to promote development. It is arguable that in the past, corruption may have helped to facilitate political stability but this is less likely in 2018, as evidence emerges of its corrosive effects on public trust in institutions. African anti-corruption efforts are constrained by the extent to which political power is exercised through patronage but there are instances of successful action, sometimes the byproduct of factional struggles within the political elite. As of 2018, there is no clear evidence of trends in success or failure in the work of African anti-corruption agencies.
Natascha Zaun and Christof Roos
EU immigration policies have incrementally evolved from a purely intergovernmental to a deeply integrated EU policy area. In practice, EU immigration policies and EU secondary legislation still leave significant discretion to the Member States, as witnessed by key developments in the various subfields of immigration policies—including policies on border protection, return and irregular migration, as well as labor migration and family migration policies. The key academic debates on EU immigration policies have mainly focused on explaining the decision-making processes behind the adoption of EU policies as well as their impact on national policies. While scholars find that these EU policies have led to liberalizations in the areas of family migration or labor migration, the irregular migration and border policies of the EU have gradually produced more restrictive outcomes. Policy liberalizations are usually based on the impact of EU institutions, which tend to have more liberal positions than Member States. Lowest common denominator output at the EU level, such as on the Blue Card Directive, is usually due to a resistance of individual Member States. With deeper integration of the policy area over time and qualified majority voting, however, resistant minorities have been increasingly outvoted. The stronger politicization of some areas of immigration, such as family migration, has also led the European Commission to curb its legislative proposals, as it would be much harder to adopt a piece of legislation today (2019) that provides adequate protection standards.
Marcus M. Weymiller and Christopher W. Larimer
“Decision outcomes” refers to mass political behavior as well as decisions by elites in the policy arena. Such outcomes are naturally the product of the decision-making process, a process that has been informed considerably by research in areas outside of political science. Political and policy processes are less defined by rational responses to incoming information than by pre-existing cognitive biases favoring narratives, stories, and symbols. Thus, to accurately understand decision outcomes requires an interdisciplinary approach, and, indeed, the discipline of political science has increasingly incorporated insights from psychology, social psychology, sociology, behavioral economics, and other social and natural sciences. Decision outcomes may reflect the true preferences of decision-makers, but behavior and outcomes have also been shown to change dramatically depending on who knows (or will know) the decision. Considering decision outcomes as the dependent variable, several factors have been identified that consistently and significantly shape outcomes in the political and policy worlds. Political outcomes, such as voting (by citizens and elites), are often explained by focusing on party ID or partisanship, and for good reason, but there are also instances in which decision outcomes are better encapsulated by more localized factors or influences. Policy outcomes, on the other hand, are less easily defined or predicted. Emotional testimonies and random fluctuations affect whether an issue is acted upon by a legislative body. Attention to social context and a concern for fairness is a primary driver of decision outcomes in social situations. In particular, leader–follower dynamics and group outcomes are significantly affected by the process in which decisions are made.
Transboundary haze pollution affects about half of the countries in Southeast Asia with varied intensities on an almost annual basis. Haze not only affects visibility, but also causes widespread health problems, transportation disruptions, and other socioeconomic issues. This haze, and the fires that cause it, has been a key topic for environmental politics research in the region since the late 1990s. This has largely been driven by one overarching objective: how to prevent haze from returning in the following years. However, conditions on the ground (mostly in Indonesia and in the larger Southeast Asian region) have been changing and evolving drastically. This has resulted in a very dynamic research agenda that has to keep up with these changes. Within the context of environmental politics, fires and haze can be viewed through the broad lens of national interest. There is a strong link between the severity of haze and the burgeoning agribusiness sector in the region: that of oil palm in particular. Oil palm is a very important crop in the region, with Indonesia and Malaysia making up almost 90% of total global palm oil output. Hence, national and business interest theories have often been used as a framework for research in this area, with commercial oil palm plantations often being the unit of analysis. This includes research by this author, using the patronage politics framework. However, this has been called to question lately as these plantations face increasing market pressure to act more sustainably. A new group of actors that have since been highlighted are smallholders, either independent or in contract with larger plantations. There is potentially much to be uncovered with regard to the relationships between smallholders and commercial plantations, and how this affects patterns of fire use and global sustainability issues. Related to this is the ever-evolving collection of local, regional, and national policies (and related enforcement issues) over land and fire use in Indonesia. One key area of contention is the use of peatlands. Fires on peat produce the thick, sooty smoke that travels across national boundaries, and are notoriously hard to put out. Political research in this area is heavily framed by a tough debate between the scientific community and socioeconomic concerns. While peatlands play an important role in the global climate change balance, at the same time, these peat areas face immense pressure for development fueled by the scarcity of land. The regional context has also been an important theme for haze research. Haze primarily affects the Southern Southeast Asian subregion. And the major players of the palm oil sector also come from this region. The Indonesian palm oil sector is a vibrant combination of Malaysian, Singaporean, and local companies. And ASEAN has been the hub of cooperation and mitigation activities over haze. Hence, many scholars have searched for answers at the regional level. However, new national developments like Singapore’s Transboundary Haze Pollution Act suggest that countries may be losing confidence with regional efforts, which may be an indicator for future directions for solutions as well.
Richard C. Eichenberg
Scholars and governments are interested in four sets of questions concerning public opinion on foreign policy and national security policy. First, what do public opinion polls measure? How do citizens, who are generally uninformed about foreign policy and world affairs, form opinions on these matters? Second, how rational is public opinion? Is it stable or volatile? Are opinions coherent? Do opinions plausibly reflect the flow of world events? Third, what factors influence the formation of citizen opinions? Specifically, what is the impact of fundamental attitudes toward war and military force, partisanship, ideology, and gender? Finally, how universal are the determinants of citizen opinion, especially on crucial issues of war and peace? Are the findings in global comparisons the same as those in the American or European contexts? Considerable scholarship has been devoted to these four questions. Scholars now characterize public opinion as rational, in the sense that it is fairly stable, coherent, and responsive to real world events. Attitudes toward war and military force are a major focus of the research literature because many specific policy attitudes flow from fundamental views of war. Gender has also become a major focus of research because many studies find that women are less supportive of the use of military force for most purposes. Finally, scholars are beginning to discover that some opinion patterns are universal across societies, while others are more affected by the individual characteristics of national societies. Studies of global public opinion have expanded greatly, with recent scholarship focusing on global attitudes toward gender equality, immigration, and climate change.
José Nederhand and Astrid Molenveld
Q methodology is an approach well suited to identifying and comparing patterns of similarity and differences in people’s viewpoints. The method systematically maps perceptions—including which elements of the perceptions are shared or unique. Q methodology originated in psychology, but it has been widely applied in multiple disciplines. The approach has also increasingly gained ground in public administration, in which studying perceptions, attitudes, and related biases is of key importance. William Stephenson, one of the founders of the method, developed Q methodology in order to be able to study persons as a complex whole, instead of just their characteristics, which is common among statistical methods. Unraveling the multiplicity of debates and perceptions is very useful for informing and evaluating the practice of public administration researchers and practitioners. By providing systematic insight into clusters of perceptions surrounding a specific topic, Q methodology allows researchers to develop new concepts and to advance the (existing) literature. For practitioners, the method is particularly suited for describing societal and political debates and practices, for designing governance and policy interventions, and for evaluating the implementation of policy programs.
Abigail Vegter and Donald P. Haider-Markel
Religious tradition and religiosity affect attitudes toward LGBT people, their rights, and their position within religious communities. There is significant variability within the American context concerning how religious traditions approach issues related to sexuality and gender identity, with monotheistic religions holding more conservative positions. These positions and the elites who hold them often influence the attitudes of their congregants, but not always, as some congregations diverge from the official positions of their denominations in terms of attitudes toward LGBT rights, religious leadership, and congregational membership. As the religious landscape is consistently changing in terms of attitudes toward sexual minorities, understanding the special role of religion in LGBT-related attitudes remains important and an area ripe for future scholarship.
Andrew R. Flores and Justin O'Neill
In the early 21st century the public debates about the inclusion of gender identity in public accommodations municipal ordinances and statewide and national laws represent another step in the ongoing struggle of the social movement seeking to advance the rights and liberties of lesbians, gay men, bisexual, transgender, and other queer (LGBTQ) people. Situating these current debates in the larger context of the LGBTQ movement connects this emergent issue to that broader struggle. The LGBTQ social movement and its counter-movement, often referred to as the Religious Right, have had numerous battles over social policy since the late 20th century. Importantly, movements and their counter-movements identify winning strategies and, at times, tactically innovate so as to effect a shift in current tactics in light of a failing strategy. Tactical innovation includes shifting policy debates, which has been a primary tactic of the counter-movement to LGBTQ rights. Transgender rights broadly and public accommodations policies specifically represent a tactical innovation in the ongoing development of LGBTQ rights in the United States. How has gender identity inclusion in public accommodations been addressed in politics, policy, and law? There are numerous dimensions of gender identity public accommodations policies as understood in social movements, American law, public policy and administration, public opinion, and sociology and social psychology. Public accommodations are a constant source of public contention. The legal landscape in constitutional, federal, state, and municipal approaches to these policies remains uncertain, and there are competing interpretations of law in whether gender identity protections are covered in existing federal statutes. The rhetoric of the policy debates in both state legislatures and initiative and referendum campaigns primarily focuses on the potential harms to women and girls brought about by men taking advantage of such laws to assault them in sex-segregated public facilities. An account of public opinion about these policies also shows that American adults are far more divided about transgender people using restrooms consistent with their current gender identity than other aspects of transgender rights such as employment nondiscrimination policies. Experimental interventions, such as in-depth conversations encouraging people to consider the day in the life of a transgender person, reduce transphobia and make people more resistant to arguments opposed to the inclusion of gender identity in public accommodations laws. Finally, some have questioned whether sex classifications are needed in public policy and how current non-discrimination laws achieve their stated goals without such a system. Further development and inquiry absolutely are needed in all these areas.