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Cabinet Ministers: from Agenda Setting to Policy Making

Comparative Politics
Agenda-Setting
Policy Change
Policy-Making
Ilana Shpaizman
Bar Ilan University
Ilana Shpaizman
Bar Ilan University

Abstract

Cabinet ministers have significant agenda setting power in their departments. However, not all ministers use their power equally. Some aim at promoting broad reforms while other leave the administrators to handle the department. Moreover, even within those ministers who strive to make profound changes in the agenda not all ministers are equally successful. While we know that ministers differ in their policymaking success so far we do not know what make some ministers more or less successful. This is important because cabinet ministries are important policymaking venue. This paper aims at examining when and under which conditions a minister is able to translate her agenda into an actual policy. It explores this question in the case of Israel, looking at the policymaking in cabinet ministries from 1981 and until 2020. To answer this question the paper uses a mixed method analysis. For the quantitative analysis it compares the agenda of each cabinet minister to her actual policymaking. To do so it uses three original data bases: a. the budget objectives of each cabinet ministry which represents the ministers’ agenda b. the cabinet decisions made during the examined period c. the budget of each ministry. For the qualitative analysis the research uses 20 in-depth interviews conducted with former cabinet ministers. Preliminary findings suggest that political experience and previous familiarity with the subject matter increase the ministers’ likelihood of changing the policy. Professional experience was not found as a significant factor. This strengthens findings from previous research suggesting that professional ministers often lack the political knowledge needed for translating their agenda into an actual policy.