Policy Concepts in 1000 Words: The Advocacy Coalition Framework


Paul Cairney: Politics & Public Policy

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Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith developed the ACF to describe and explain a complicated policymaking environment which:

  • contains multiple actors and levels of government;
  • produces decisions despite high levels of uncertainty and ambiguity;
  • takes years to turn decisions into outcomes; and,
  • processes policy in very different ways. Some issues involve intensely politicized disputes containing many actors. Others are treated as technical and processed routinely, largely by policy specialists, out of the public spotlight.

The ACF’s key terms are:

Beliefs. People engage in politics to translate their beliefs into action. There are three main types. ‘Core’ are fundamental and unlikely to change (like a ‘religious conversion’) but too broad to guide detailed policy (such as one’s views on human nature). ‘Policy core’ are more specific (such as the proper balance between government and market) but still unlikely to change. ‘Secondary Aspects’ relate to the implementation of policy. They are the most likely…

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