The policy agenda effects of problem indicators: A comparative study in seven countries

Thomas Artmann Kristensen, Peter Bjerre Mortensen, Christoffer Green-Pedersen, Henrik Bech Seeberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Indicators are important sources of information about problems across many policy areas. However, despite a growing number of indicators across most policy areas, such as health care, business promotion, or environmental protection, we still know little about if, how, and when such indicators affect the policy agenda. This article develops a theoretical answer to these questions and examines the implications using a new large-n dataset with 220,000 parliamentary questions asked by government and opposition MPs in Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. The data contain information on political attention to 17 problems, such as unemployment, C02 emission, and crime from 1960 to 2015. Across this wealth of data, the article demonstrates that politicians respond to the severity and development of problem indicators over time and in comparison to other countries. Results also show that politicians respond much more when problem indicators develop negatively than when they develop positively.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Public Policy
Pages (from-to)240 - 260
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


  • benchmarking
  • indicators
  • policy agendas
  • problems
  • social comparison


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