Policy Sciences

, Volume 50, Issue 1, pp 23–40 | Cite as

Policy Conflict Framework

  • Christopher M. WeibleEmail author
  • Tanya Heikkila
Research Article


This essay introduces a Policy Conflict Framework to guide and organize theoretical, practical, and empirical research to fill the vacuum that surrounds policy conflicts. The framework centers on a conceptual definition of an episode of policy conflict that distinguishes between cognitive and behavioral characteristics. The cognitive characteristics of a policy conflict episode include divergence in policy positions among two or more actors, perceived threats from opponents’ policy positions, and unwillingness to compromise. These cognitive characteristics manifest in a range of behavioral characteristics (e.g., framing contests, lobbying, building networks). Episodes of policy conflicts are shaped by a policy setting, which consists of different levels of action where conflicts may emerge (political, policy subsystem and policy action situations), interpersonal and intrapersonal policy actor attributes, events, and the policy issue. In turn, the outputs and outcomes of policy conflicts produce feedback effects that shape the policy setting. This essay ends with an agenda for advancing studies of policy conflicts, both methodologically and theoretically.


Policy conflict Policy process theories Technical debates Policy analysis and evaluation Political analysis Public policy 



This research is supported by the AirWaterGas Sustainability Research Network funded by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. CBET-1,240,584. Any opinion, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Public AffairsUniversity of Colorado DenverDenverUSA

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