One of the challenges facing policy analysts is how to improve policy processes in the era of governance. The present article examines how “perceptions analysis,” i.e. the identification of perceptions of different leaders in a specific policy field, may contribute to policy analysis. The article focuses on two questions: What explains leaders’ support for different policy options? Can the examination of leaders’ perceptions help in identifying potential bases for collaboration? Based on mixed methodologies, the study includes interviews with 103 people who influence the policy process and policy discourse in Israel. The findings reveal the importance of the perceptions of causes in explaining leaders’ policy preferences and suggest that identifying their perceptions may help analysts distinguish bases for promoting collaboration and trust among different actors in the policy process, as well as enhancing the legitimacy of the policy process as a whole.
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We adopt Verba’s (Verba et al. 1987) definition of leaders as individuals who influence policy process and policy discourse. This term was chosen because it is broader than “policymakers.” In the era of governance, policy process includes a broad array of individuals and groups.
An additional category of explanations is "fatalistic", i.e. situations attributed to fate, bad luck, and human nature (Smith and Stone 1989). This category is less significant for public policy: if we cannot do anything about poverty, policy alternatives are irrelevant. Therefore, this paper does not address fatalistic explanations.
In recent years, researchers have been studying perceptions among elites in developing countries, including the Philippines, and Brazil (Reis and Moore 2005). Their findings are not reported here, mainly because of their focus on the Third World.
Seventeen of the respondents did not answer this question.
This sector was initially included as a subcategory of the business elite, because of its historical ability to influence labor relations in the Israeli economy (Shalev 1999). However, in light of the differences in the perceptions of the sectors, we decided to treat it as a separate sector.
As noted, half of the interviewees supported left-wing parties, but in the Israeli context, no direct connection necessarily exists between party affiliation on the left–right continuum and perceptions regarding social-economic matters. In most cases, party affiliation is more reflective of state-political perceptions than of social-economic perceptions (Ventura and Shamir 1991).
In the Israeli context, citizens of Asian-African origin are more heavily concentrated in the lower socio-economic echelons than those of European-American origin (Semyonov and Lewin-Epstein 2004).
Based on a public opinion survey conducted by the International Social Survey Program [ISSP].
First, all but one interview were conducted personally by the author. Second, during the interview, the interviewer listened to the responses without reacting, making a point of not voicing judgments. Third, in order to gain trust among the interviewees, the purpose of the research was described, and the anonymity of the respondents was stressed at the very beginning of each interview. Fourth, the questionnaire was deliberately worded to reflect different attitudes and not to dictate a one-dimensional perception. Moreover, some of the items that appeared in the questionnaire included questions that were repeated from different angles.
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This study is based on a doctoral dissertation presented to the Department of Public Policy, Tel Aviv University, Israel. The author wishes to thank Prof. Joseph Katan and Dr. Gila Menahem for their guidance. The research was supported by a grant from the Ministry of Science, Israel. The author wishes to thank the Pollack Foundation and the Horowitz Institute for their support of this study. We also thank the reviewers of Policy Sciences, for their illuminating remarks concerning previous versions of this article.
See Table 3.
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Lahat, L. How can leaders’ perceptions guide policy analysis in an era of governance?. Policy Sci 44, 135–155 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11077-010-9119-x
- Policy analysis
- Leaders’ perceptions
- Policy process