Elizabeth A Shanahan

Montana. State University
Political Science

Wilson Hall, 2-142
Bozeman, MT
shanahan@montana.edu |  Visit Personal Website

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As one of the architects of the Narrative Policy Framework, my research is centered on both the theoretical development of the NPF and its empirical testing at the micro, meso, and macro levels of analysis. The central research question is how policy narratives influence policy outcomes. In other words, how does the use of narrative elements and strategies (e.g., characters and distribution of costs and benefits) influence public opinion (micro)? How do different coalition groups deploy narrative elements and strategies to influence policy outcomes (meso)? My colleagues (Mark K. McBeth—Idaho State University and Michael D. Jones—Oregon State) and I have just published a chapter on NPF in the Theories of the Policy Process as well as completed an edited volume of NPF work entitled The Science of Stories: Applications of the Narrative Policy Framework in Policy Analysis. Upcoming will be an NPF methods book. Historically, the policy issues I have used in studying policy narratives have been some of the contentious issues in the Greater Yellowstone: management of bison, wolf reintroduction, snowmobile access to YNP. Currently, I am exploring climate change narratives at the local, state, and national levels.

Shanahan, Elizabeth, Mark K. McBeth, and Michael D. Jones. 2014. “Denouement?” Michael D. Jones, Elizabeth A. Shanahan, and Mark K. McBeth, eds. The Science of Stories: Applications of Narrative Policy Framework (pp. 247-260). New York, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Abstract: The narrative policy framework (NPF) asks a simple empirical question: What is the role of policy narratives in the policy process? As a framework, different disciplinary theories (e.g., from literature, political science, psychology, anthropology, and communications) are used to inform and shape NPF research to answer such a basic question. As with any scientific endeavor, it requires a community of researchers to refine the operationalization of policy narrative concepts and to test and re-test NPF hypotheses, ultimately to build scientific knowledge about the role of narratives in the policy process. The Science of Stories is an example of the NPF science community at work iteratively developing the NPF. Derivative of the progress clearly demonstrated by the collection of studies presented in this volume, critical questions as well as needs for clarification, additional research, and theorizing have emerged. As such, we conclude this volume of work first by providing a brief summary of each chapter’s contribution followed by a discussion of four broad themes that arose as we reflected on the collective NPF studies presented in this volume and Weible and Schlager’s assessment thereof. First, we review what we, to date, define as a policy narrative and explore ideas of narrativity, incomplete narratives, and narratives in complex policy contexts. Second, we address what the “clear enough to be wrong” standard means for qualitative and/or interpretative researchers. Third, with some political scientists questioning the import of public opinion in public policy, we examine what some of the implications may be for the role of policy narratives. Fourth, we discuss ethical considerations about the use of NPF to manipulate the public and policy processes.
McBeth, Mark K., Elizabeth A. Shanahan, Molly Anderson*, Barbara Rose. 2012. “Policy Story or Gory Story: Narrative Policy Framework Analysis of Buffalo Field Campaign’s YouTube Videos.” Policy & Internet 4(3-4): 159-183.
Abstract: Interest groups are increasingly turning to new media such as YouTube as vehicles for indirect lobbying. Such a visual medium provides unprecedented ability for interest groups to enter into and have influence on public policy debates through dissemination of policy preferences to wide audiences. While policy narratives are increasingly becoming the subject of policy research, no empirical research has examined whether interest groups’ YouTube visual clips constitute policy narratives, with embedded narrative elements and strategies. To explore the intersection of policy narratives with new media, we use the Narrative Policy Framework (NPF) to analyze YouTube videos posted by the interest group Buffalo Field Campaign. Our results indicate that the group’s videos were moderately strong in narrativity and that gory images were the most powerful predictor for public attention (measured by a rank order of views per month). The implications of our methodology and results for the empirical study of YouTube and its role in public policy are discussed.
McBeth, Mark K. and Elizabeth A. Shanahan. 2005. “Public Opinion for Sale: The Role of Policy Marketers in Greater Yellowstone Policy Conflict.” Policy Sciences 37(3/4): 319-338.
Abstract: This article develops a macro-level theory of framing to explain the intractable or ‘icked’ nature of environmental policy. Using conflict in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA) as a case study, we review how proposed solutions – technical, scientific, and economic – and cultural issues often lead to inadequate policy solutions. We then propose that interest groups, the media, and elected officials do not act solely as linkage mechanisms, but, rather, as policy marketers who market public opinion to citizens. The macro-level trends of a marketing culture in tandem with the rise of consumerism are explored in the context of GYA politics. Finally, we describe how our proposed macro-level theory of framing points to a rich research agenda for empirically testing questions about issue framing, policy marketers, and public opinion formation in environmental policy conflict.
DOI: DOI: 10.1007/s11077-005-8876-4.
McBeth, Mark K., Elizabeth A. Shanahan, and Michael D. Jones. 2005. “The Science of Storytelling: Measuring Policy Beliefs in Greater Yellowstone.” Society and Natural Resources 18(5): 413-429.
Abstract: This study of Greater Yellowstone interest groups uses a mixed methodology that addresses methodological criticisms of narrative policy analysis. Three research questions guide the research: (1) Is it possible to connect narratives found in public consumption documents to interest group policy beliefs? (2) Can narratives be made falsifiable? (3) Does a quantified method add to the usefulness and explanatory power of narrative policy analysis? Seventy-five public consumption documents from the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and the Blue Ribbon Coalition were content analyzed for policy beliefs. The results indicate statistically significant differences between the two groups for all three policy beliefs: federalism, science, and the relationship between humans and nature. Despite these statistically significant results, some of the findings run counter to expectations. The implications of the study's methodological approach are explored.
DOI: DOI: 10.1080/08941920590924765.
Shanahan, Elizabeth A., Mark K. McBeth, Paul L. Hathaway, and Ruth J. Arnell. 2008. “Conduit or Contributor? The Role of Media in Policy Change Theory.” Policy Sciences 41(2): 115-138.
Abstract: The policy change literature is contradictory about the role the media plays in policy change: a conduit for policy participants, with media accounts transmitting multiple policy beliefs of those involved in policy debates or a contributor in the policy process, with media accounts supplying consistent policy beliefs with congruent narrative framing strategies to construct a policy story. The purpose of this study is to empirically test whether the role of the media is that of a conduit or contributor in the policy change process. This study tests whether there are differences in policy beliefs and narrative framing strategies between local and national print media coverage of two contentious policy issues in the Greater Yellowstone Area between 1986 and 2006, that of snowmobile access and wolf reintroduction. In the Greater Yellowstone Area policy arena, local media accounts are believed to be aligned with the Old West Advocacy Coalition, whereas the national media accounts are thought to be part of the New West Advocacy Coalition. With a methodology informed by narrative policy analysis, one hundred seventy five local and national print newspaper accounts were content analyzed to determine whether these media accounts were policy narratives, with embedded policy beliefs and narrative framing strategies. The results indicate that there are statistical differences between local and national media coverage for five of the seven hypotheses. Media accounts are generally policy stories, suggesting that the media’s role is more of a contributor than a conduit in the policy change process.
DOI: DOI: 10.1007/s11077-008-9058-y.
Shanahan, Elizabeth A., Mark K. McBeth, Linda E. Tigert, Paul L. Hathaway. 2010. From Protests to Litigation to YouTube: A Longitudinal Case Study of Strategic Lobby Tactic Choice for the Buffalo Field Campaign. Social Science Journal 47(1): 137-150.
Abstract: Interest group scholars have long explored under what circumstances interest groups choose lobby tactics to influence policy. While most studies focus on well-funded national interest groups, this study uses a newly formed interest group, Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC), in order to qualitatively analyze changes in lobby tactic choice from its inception and empirically assess these changes with traditional measures of lobby choice. Additionally, this study employs an innovative methodology by proposing a new typology of lobby strategy and using the interest group''s political narratives as the data source. Thus, the research questions addressed in this study are: (1) does the BFC evolve over a ten year period in terms of lobby typologies and if so, how?; (2) qualitatively, what are these lobby activities?; and (3) how does choice of lobby typology relate to age of the group, issue saliency, financial resources, and external political context? The results indicate that BFC has gone through three distinct lobbying stages since its inception from indirect-unconventional to direct-conventional to indirect-conventional. Significantly correlated with these stages are age, financial resources, and governing coalition; interestingly, there are no statistically significant associations between lobby tactic choice and issue salience or external political context measured in the number of bison deaths. The implications of the findings for the study of other interest groups are explored.
DOI: DOI: 10.1016/j.soscij.2009.10.002.
McBeth, Mark K., Elizabeth A. Shanahan, Linda E. Tigert, Paul L. Hathaway, and Lynn J. Sampson. 2010. Buffalo Tales: Interest Group Policy Stories and Tactics in Greater Yellowstone. Policy Sciences 43(4): 391-409.
Abstract: Wicked policy problems-those that resist resolution and continuously cycle through different administrative jurisdictions-are time-consuming for the practitioner and expensive. In these wicked policy environs, interest group narratives contribute to this intractability through the continued construction of a policy loser's tale. Central to our study is the analysis of group maturation with that of policy narrative elements. We explore whether there is a relationship between lobby tactics, financial resources, and professionalization of authorship of narratives and policy narrative elements. We content analyze the policy stories of the Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) over a 10-year period (1999-2008), using the Yellowstone National Park bison and brucellosis controversy as case material and track how this new interest group's fundamental policy story has changed over the course of its lifespan. As demonstrated through their choice of lobby tactics, the group does evolve from an unconventional to a conventional interest group, with two out of three of their constructed policy beliefs remaining unchanged and their political tactics consistently focusing on spinning the loser's tale aimed at expanding the policy arena. Suggestions on the importance of this work to scientists, administrators, and academics are included.
DOI: DOI: 10.1007/s11077-010-9114-2.
Shanahan, Elizabeth A., Mark K. McBeth, and Paul L. Hathaway. 2011. Narrative Policy Framework: The Influence of Media Policy Narratives on Public Opinion. Policy & Politics 39(3): 373-400.
Abstract: Policy narratives are pervasive in the policy arena with interest group letters, speeches, and media reports. The role policy narratives play is becoming increasingly important in policy sciences research. The central question addressed here concerns what effect policy narratives have on public opinion. To measure this, we use a quasi-experimental design with 194 students and a controversial issue in Yellowstone National Park. Respondents took a pretest for baseline opinion data. The treatment was one of two media accounts that reflect divergent advocacy coalitions, followed by a posttest. Results indicate that media policy narratives are influential on public opinion in two ways. First, they 'preach to the choir' when read by audiences with similar opinions; the result is a significant strengthening of congruent reader opinions. Second, they 'convert' when read by audiences with divergent opinions; the result is a significant strengthening of opinion in the opposite direction of previously held opinions.
DOI: DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-1346.2011.00295.x.
McBeth, Mark K., Elizabeth A. Shanahan, Ruth J. Arnell, and Paul L. Hathaway. 2007. “The Intersection of Narrative Policy Analysis and Policy Change Theory.” Policy Studies Journal 35(1): 87-108.
Abstract: Narrative policy analysis and policy change theory rarely intersect in the literature. This research proposes an integration of these approaches through an empirical analysis of the narrative political strategies of two interest groups involved in policy debate and change over an eight-year period in the Greater Yellowstone Area. Three research questions are explored: (i) Is it possible to reconcile these seemingly disparate approaches? (ii) Do policy narrative strategies explain how interest groups expand or contain policy issues despite divergent core policy beliefs? (3) How does this new method of analysis add to the literature? One hundred and five documents from the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and the Blue Ribbon Coalition were content analyzed for policy narrative strategies: identification of winners and losers, diffusion or concentration of costs and benefits, and use of condensation symbols, policy surrogates, and science. Five of seven hypotheses were confirmed while controlling for presidential administration and technical expertise. The results indicate that interest groups do use distinctive narrative strategies in the turbulent policy environment.
DOI: DOI: 10.1111/j.1541-0072.2007.00208.x.
Shanahan, Elizabeth A., Michael D. Jones, and Mark K. McBeth. 2011. “Policy Narratives and Policy Processes.” Policy Studies Journal 39(3): 535-561.
Abstract: The Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF) has influenced a generation of policy scholars with its emphasis on causal drivers, testable hypotheses, and falsification. Until recently, the role of policy narratives has been largely neglected in ACF literature partially because much of that work has operated outside of traditional social science principles, such as falsification. Yet emerging literature under the rubric of Narrative Policy Framework (NPF) demonstrates how the role of policy narratives in policy processes is studied using the same rigorous social science standards initially set forth by Paul A. Sabatier. The NPF identifies theories specifying narrative elements and strategies that are likely useful to ACF researchers as classes of variables that have yet to be integrated. Examining this proposition, we provide seven hypotheses related to critical ACF concepts including advocacy coalitions and policy beliefs, policy learning, public opinion, and strategy. Our goal is to stay within the scientific, theoretical, and methodological tradition of the ACF and show how NPF's empirical, hypotheses, and causal driven work on policy narratives identifies theories applicable to ACF research while also offering an independent framework capable of explaining the policy process through the power of policy narratives. In doing so, we believe both ACF and NPF scholarship can contribute to the advancement of our understanding of the policy process.
DOI: DOI: 10.1111/j.1541-0072.2011.00420.x
Shanahan, E.A., Michael D. Jones, Mark K. McBeth, and Ross Lane*. 2013. An Angel on the Wind: How Heroic Policy Narrative Shape Policy Realities. Policy Studies Journal, 41(3), 453-483.
Abstract: Narrative Policy Framework ( NPF) is a new and maturing theory of the policy process that takes a systematic, scientific approach to understanding the social construction of policy realities. As such, NPF serves as a bridge between postpositivists, who assert that public policymaking is contextualized through narratives and social construction, and positivists, who contend that legitimacy is grounded in falsifiable claims. The central questions of NPF are: What is the empirical role of policy narratives in the policy process and do policy narratives influence policy outcomes? First, the contributions of NPF scholarship at three levels of analysis-micro, meso, and macro-are examined. Next, necessary conditions of a policy narrative are specified, accompanied by detailed discussion of the narrative components: narrative elements, narrative strategies, and policy beliefs. Finally, an empirical illustration of NPF-a case study of Cape Wind's proposal to install wind turbines off Nantucket-is presented. Although intercoalitional differences have long been studied in the NPF scholarship, this is the first study to examine intracoalitional cohesion or the extent to which a coalition tells the same story across narrative elements, narrative strategies, and policy beliefs. NPF is a new approach to the study of the policy process that offers empirical pathways to better speculating the role of narrative in the policy process.
DOI: DOI: 10.1111/psj.12025
Jones, Michael D., Elizabeth A. Shanahan, and Lisa J. Hammer*. 2014. “State and Local Environmental Policy: Trends and Future Directions.” Donald Haider-Markel, ed. The Oxford Handbook of State and Local Government.
Abstract: In this chapter the authors examine state and local environmental policy. They provide a brief historical but policy-centered background, which pays special attention to the role of federalism in environmental policy. Next they summarize the state of academic and scientific research on state and local environmental policy. The next two sections give the reader an aggregate sense of what substantive environmental policy areas are being studied by reporting the aggregated peer-reviewed publications reported in three databases between 1980 and 2011. In addition, the authors focus on two areas highlighted in the literature: public participation in environmental policy making and climate change policy. Finally, the authors provide a summary of the state of existing literature and offer directions for future research.
Shanahan, Elizabeth A., Stephanie M. Adams*, Michael D. Jones, and Mark K. McBeth. 2014. “The Blame Game: Narrative Persuasiveness of the Intentional Causal Mechanism.” Michael D. Jones, Elizabeth A. Shanahan, and Mark K. McBeth, eds. The Science of Stories: Applications of Narrative Policy Framework (pp. 69-88). New York, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Abstract: Mico-level NPF analysis of the influence of causal factors on public opinion.
Jones, Michael D., Elizabeth A. Shanahan, and Mark K. McBeth, eds. 2014. The Science of Stories: Applications of Narrative Policy Framework. New York, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Abstract: This edited volume is the first comprehensive volume of NPF research, featuring the work of NPF scholars at the micro and meso levels.
McBeth, Mark K., Michael D. Jones, and Elizabeth A. Shanahan. 2014. “The Narrative Policy Framework.” Paul A. Sabatier and Christopher M. Weible, eds. The Theories of the Policy Process, 3rd Edition (pp. 225-266). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Abstract: This is a theoretical chapter that articulates what the NPF is as a policy process theory. We define a policy narrative, identify core NPF assumptions, discuss in the three levels of analysis (micro, meso, and macro) with accompanying assumptions and hypotheses, respond to critics, and take a look at the future of the NPF enterprise.

Substantive Focus:
Environmental Policy PRIMARY

Theoretical Focus:
Policy Process Theory PRIMARY