Dynamic Agenda Setting

Abstract:

A party in power can address only a limited number of issues in an election cycle. What issues to address - the party’s agenda - has dynamic implications because it affects what issues will be addressed in the future. What is the optimal agenda in the presence of dynamic concerns? How does a party’s political strength affect its agenda? What are the efficiency implications? We address these questions in a stylized model in which the incumbent in each period addresses one issue among several issues and the remaining issues roll over to the next period.  When the incumbent expects its power to strengthen or weaken, strategic manipulations can happen in the form of waiting for the moment and seizing the moment respectively.  When the incumbent expects the opposition to come in power next period, strategic manipulations can happen in the form of steering and preemption. In steering, the incumbent gives priority to a less pressing issue to direct the opposition party towards addressing the most pressing issue for the incumbent. In preemption, the incumbent gives priority to the issue most pressing for the opposition to prevent the opposition from addressing it.  Although preemption can still be efficient, steering is necessarily inefficient.