Shaun Bevan

University of Edinburgh
Politics and International Relations

University of Edinburgh
15a George Square
Edinburgh
UK
EH8 9LD
shaun.bevan@gmail.com |  Visit Personal Website


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My work focuses on American, British and Comparative Public Policy as well as issues of measurement. In particular I study agenda-setting, agenda implementation and responsiveness through a variety of government and party agendas over time. This work is predominately based on data from the Comparative Agendas Project (CAP) a research network that I have played an active role in through the management of several projects and through my role as CAP Topic Coding Coordinator. In this role I wrote and continue to maintain the common CAP Master Codebook across projects, I also work extensively with existing and new projects on coding issues and questions. This follows from my work on measurement issues which includes addressing concerns over biased data, how best to measure theoretical concepts and the matching the theory with appropriate data.

Citation:
Bevan, Shaun. 2015. “Bureaucratic Responsiveness: The Effects of Government, Public and European Attention on the UK Bureaucracy.” Public Administration, 93(1): 139-158.
Abstract: What determines the bureaucratic agenda? This paper combines insights from models of bureaucratic behavior with agenda-setting models of government attention to test the effects of elected government, public and EU agendas on the bureaucratic agenda. Using time series cross-sectional analyses of subject and ministry coded data on UK statutory instruments from 1987 to 2008 I find strong effects for both the elected government and EU legislative agendas on UK statutory instruments. Furthermore, by breaking the data into different sets based on its relationship with the EU several logical differences in these effects are found. These results include the EU agenda having exclusive influence on instruments implementing EU directives and the UK agenda being the sole driver of bureaucratic attention on those instruments that mention the EU but do not implement EU legislation. This paper opens a new avenue for research on bureaucracy by approaching it as a unique policy-making institution.
URL: https://www.academia.edu/6886499/Bureaucratic_Responsiveness_The_Effects_of_Government_Public_and_European_Attention_on_the_UK_Bureaucracy
Citation:
Lovett, John, Shaun Bevan and Frank Baumgartner. 2015 “Popular Presidents Can Affect Congressional Attention, for a Little While.” Policy Studies Journal, 43(1): 22-43.
Abstract: Does the president have the ability to set the congressional agenda? Agenda-setting is a prerequisite for influence, so this is an important element in understanding presidential legislative relations. We focus on the State of the Union address and show that popular presidents can, indeed, cause Congress to shift attention to those topics most emphasized. The impact is tempered by divided government and time, however. No matter the state of divided government, however, popular presidents can direct congressional attention, at least for a little while. Unpopular presidents, by contrast, are irrelevant.
URL: https://www.academia.edu/8028919/Popular_Presidents_Can_Affect_Congressional_Attention_for_a_Little_While
Citation:
Bevan, Shaun, Peter John and Will Jennings. 2011. “Keeping Party Programmes on Track: The Transmission of the Policy Agendas of Executive Speeches to Legislative Outputs in the United Kingdom.” European Political Science Review, 3(3): 395-417.
Abstract: In the United Kingdom, the transmission between policy promises and statutes is assumed to be both rapid and efficient because of the tradition of party discipline, relative stability of government, absence of coalitions and the limited powers of legislative revision in the second chamber. Even in the UK, the transmission is not perfect since legislative priorities and outputs are susceptible to changes in public opinion or media coverage, unanticipated events in the external world, backbench rebellions, changes in the political parties and the practical constraints of administering policies or programmes. This paper investigates the strength of the connection between executive priorities and legislative outputs measured by the Speech from the Throne and Acts of Parliament from 1911 to 2008. These are categorised according to the policy content coding system of the UK Policy Agendas Project (www.policyagendas.org.uk). Time series cross-sectional analyses show that there is transmission of the policy agenda from the speech to acts. However, the relationship differs by party, strengthening over time for Conservative governments and declining over time for Labour and other governments.
URL: http://goo.gl/KnI0sG
Citation:
Jennings, Will, Shaun Bevan, Arco Timmermans, Gerard Breeman, Sylvain Brouard, Laura Chaques, Christoffer Green-Pedersen, Peter John, Anna Palau and Peter B. Mortensen. 2011. “Effects of the Core Functions of Government on the Diversity of Executive Agendas.” Comparative Political Studies, 44(8): 1001-1030.
Abstract: The distribution of attention across issues is of fundamental importance to the political agenda and outputs of government. This paper presents an issue-based theory of the diversity of governing agendas where the core functions of government – defence, international affairs, the economy, government operations and the rule of law – are prioritized ahead of all other issues. It undertakes comparative analysis of issue diversity of the executive agenda of several European countries and the United States over the post-war period. The analysis uses a new dataset of annual executive speeches which consists of 50,000 policy statements between 1945 and 2008. The results offer strong evidence of the limiting effect of core issues – the economy, government operations, defence and international affairs – on agenda diversity. This suggests that not only do some issues receive more attention than others, but also that some issues are only attended to at times when the agenda is more diverse. When core functions of government are high on the agenda, executives pursue a less diverse agenda – focusing the majority of their attention on fewer issues. Some issues are more equal than others in executive agenda-setting.
URL: http://goo.gl/YbtGuv
Citation:
Jennings, Will, Shaun Bevan and Peter John. 2011. “The British Government’s Political Agenda: the Speech from the Throne, 1911-2008.” Political Studies, 59(1): 74-98. (Presented at the Political Studies Association – Parliaments and Legislatures Specialist Group Annual Conference, London, UK, June 24, 2009).
Abstract: This article considers how UK governments use the Speech from the Throne (also known as the Gracious Speech and the King’s or the Queen’s Speech) to define and articulate their executive and legislative agenda. The analysis uses the policy content coding system of the Policy Agendas Project to measure total executive and legislative attention to particular issues. This generates the longest known data series of the political agenda in the UK, from the date of the first Parliament Act in 1911 right up to the end of 2008, nearly a century of government agenda setting. Using these data, the article identifies long-run institutional and policy stability in this agenda-setting instrument, and variation in its length and executive–legislative content due to the focusing events of world wars and party control of government. It assesses the degree to which the policy content of the speech is persistent (autoregressive) over time and identifies long-term trends in the total number of topics mentioned in each speech (scope), and the dispersion of government attention across topics (entropy). It also identifies important variation over time that indicates change in the agenda-setting function of the speech and evolution of the agenda in response to policy challenges faced by modern British governments in the period since 1911. Overall, the analysis demonstrates the robustness of the speech as a measure of the policy agenda and executive priorities in the UK.
URL: http://goo.gl/F4006z
Citation:
John, Peter, Anthony Bertelli, Will Jennings and Shaun Bevan. 2013. Policy Agendas in British Politics. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Citation:
John, Peter, Shaun Bevan and Will Jennings. 2014. “Party Politics and the Policy Agenda: The Case of the United Kingdom” in Christoffer Green-Pedersen and Stefaan Walgrave (eds.) Agenda Setting, Policies, and Political Systems: A Comparative Approach. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Citation:
John, Peter, Shaun Bevan and Will Jennings. 2011. “The Policy-Opinion Link and Institutional Change: The Legislative Agenda of the United Kingdom and Scottish Parliaments.” Journal of European Public Policy, 18(7): 1052-1068.
Abstract: Institutions can affect the degree to which public opinion influences policy by determining the clarity of responsibility in decision-making. The sharing of power between national and devolved levels of government makes it difficult for the public to attribute responsibility for decisions. In the UK this generates the prediction that the devolution of power to territorial units weakens the effect of public opinion on policy both for the UK and Scottish governments. To test this expectation, this paper analyses responsiveness of the legislative outputs of the UK and Scottish parliaments to the issue priorities of the public. It finds the policy-opinion link in the UK appears to be weaker since devolution to the Scottish Parliament in 1999 compared to the period between 1977 and 1998. It shows no evidence of a direct link between issue priorities of the Scottish public and legislative outputs of the Scottish Parliament.
URL: https://www.academia.edu/382760/The_Policy-Opinion_Link_and_Institutional_Change_the_Legislative_Agenda_of_the_United_Kingdom_and_Scottish_Parliaments
Citation:
John, Peter and Shaun Bevan. 2012. “What Are Policy Punctuations? Large Changes in the Legislative Agenda of the UK Government, 1911-2008.” Policy Studies Journal, 40(1): 89-108.
Abstract: In this paper we argue that policy punctuations differ from each other in ways that reflect distinct types of political change. We identify three main kinds. The first are procedural changes that have unique unrelated policies within the same issue area. Within the remaining large policy changes, high-salience punctuations are associated with increased attention in the media, whereas low-salience punctuations do not attract such scrutiny. The analysis applies the typology to data from the UK Policy Agendas Project, identifying punctuations from the content of Acts of the UK Parliament between 1911 and 2008. Using evidence from the historical record and the data series, the analysis places each observation within the typology. We claim that the typology has a more general application and could be replicated in other jurisdictions and time periods. We conclude that attention to the historical record and qualitative studies of punctuations can complement and inform the analysis of aggregate data series.
URL: https://www.academia.edu/382759/What_Are_Policy_Punctuations_Large_Changes_In_the_Agenda_of_the_UK_Government_1911-2008
Citation:
Boydstun, Amber E., Shaun Bevan and Herschel F. Thomas III. 2014. “The Importance of Attention Diversity and How to Measure It.” Policy Studies Journal, 42(2): 173-196.
Abstract: Studies of political attention often focus on attention to a single issue, such as front-page coverage of the economy. However, examining attention without accounting for the agenda as a whole can lead to faulty assumptions. One solution is to consider the diversity of attention; that is, how narrowly or widely attention is distributed across items (e.g., issues on an agenda or, at a lower level, frames in an issue debate). Attention diversity is an important variable in its own right, offering insight into how agendas vary in their accessibility to policy problems. Yet despite the importance of attention diversity, we lack a standard for how best to measure it. This paper focuses on the four most commonly used measures: the inverse Herfindahl Index, Shannon’s H, and their normalized versions. We discuss the purposes of these measures and compare them through simulations and using three real-world datasets. We conclude that both Shannon’s H and its normalized form are better measures, minimizing the danger of spurious findings that could result from the less sensitive Herfindahl measures. The choice between the Shannon’s H measures should be made based on whether variance in the total number of possible items (e.g., issues) is meaningful.
URL: https://www.academia.edu/6886494/The_Importance_of_Attention_Diversity_and_How_to_Measure_It
Citation:
Bevan, Shaun and Will Jennings. 2014. “Representation, Agendas and Institutions.” European Journal of Political Research, 53(1): 37-56.
Abstract: Dynamic agenda representation can be understood through the transmission of the priorities of the public onto the policy priorities of government. The pattern of representation in policy agendas is mediated through institutions due to friction (i.e., organisational and cognitive costs imposed on change) in decision making and variation in the scarcity of policy makers’ attention. This article builds on extant studies of the correspondence between public priorities and the policy activities of government, undertaking time series analyses using data for the United States and the United Kingdom, from 1951 to 2003, relating to executive speeches, laws and budgets in combination with data on public opinion about the ‘most important problem’. The results show that the responsiveness of policy agendas to public priorities is greater when institutions are subject to less friction (i.e., executive speeches subject to few formal rules and involving a limited number of actors) and declines as friction against policy change increases (i.e., laws and budgets subject to a greater number of veto points and political interests/coalitions).
URL: https://www.academia.edu/3516501/Representation_Agendas_and_Institutions
Citation:
Bevan, Shaun, Frank Baumgartner, Erik Johnson and John McCarthy. 2013. “Understanding Selection Bias, Time-Lags and Measurement Bias in Secondary Data Sources: Putting the Encyclopedia of Associations Database in Broader Context.” Social Science Research, 42(6): 1750-1764.
Abstract: Secondary data gathered for purposes other than research play an important role in the social sciences. A recent data release has made an important source of publicly available data on associational interests, the Encyclopedia of Associations (EA), readily accessible to scholars (www.policyagendas.org). In this paper we introduce these new data and systematically investigate issues of lag between events and subsequent reporting in the EA, as these have important but under-appreciated effects on time-series statistical models. We further analyze the accuracy and coverage of the database in numerous ways. Our study serves as a guide to potential users of this database, but we also reflect upon a number of issues that should concern all researchers who use secondary data such as newspaper records, IRS reports and FBI Uniform Crime Reports.
URL: https://www.academia.edu/4922095/Understanding_Selection_Bias_Time-Lags_and_Measurement_Bias_in_Secondary_Data_Sources_Putting_the_Encyclopedia_of_Associations_Database_in_Broader_Context

Substantive Focus:
Governance SECONDARY
Comparative Public Policy PRIMARY

Theoretical Focus:
Agenda-Setting, Adoption, and Implementation PRIMARY
Public Opinion SECONDARY

Keywords

AGENDA-SETTING PUBLIC POLICY PUBLIC OPINION RESPONSIVENESS