July 22, 2020
Guest Frank Baumgartner, UNC-Chapel Hill
Hosted by Jamie Harris, Sentience Institute
Frank Baumgartner of UNC-Chapel Hill on policy dynamics, lobbying, and issue framing
“In my career, one of the things that I’ve focused on the most is developing the theory of punctuated equilibrium. And I think recognising that things occasionally go through real transformations with radical change has changed people’s understanding of what we can expect out of government. It’s a much more fruitful way to think about how policy changes within government. It is true that for the most part, governments are very status quo oriented. But every once in a while, that’s thrown out and people recognise that there’s a crisis or a certain set of policy actors are discredited and other people come in and follow a different paradigm. And I think those events are relatively rare compared to the periods of stability, but if we don’t understand them then we can’t understand long periods of policy history in any domain.”
Governmental policies are not fixed indefinitely; social change is possible. But does change happen incrementally or dramatically and suddenly? And how can individuals or social movements best use their time and resources to encourage positive social change?
Frank Baumgartner is a professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is an author of many books, including Agendas and Instability in American Politics, Lobbying and Policy Change: Who Wins, Who Loses, and Why, and The Decline of the Death Penalty and the Discovery of Innocence.
Topics discussed in the episode:
- The role that financial resources play in efforts to encourage policy change (1:51)
- The methodology used in Agendas and Instability and the research priorities for political science as a field (11:26)
- The theory of “punctuated equilibrium” as a representation of how policy changes (15:23)
- The implications of the theory of punctuated equilibrium for seeking radical policy change rather than smaller incremental policy changes (21:13)
- The importance of public support for policy change (29:30)
- The importance of framing for determining policy outcomes (33:56)
- The importance of the tone of the media coverage of specific subtopics of social issues and what this implies for social movement strategy (40:46)
- The value of linking policy reforms to underlying problems that people would like to see solved (56:18)
- The importance of having credible professional communities that can develop workable policy solutions (1:03:25)
- Critiques of Frank Baumgartner’s work plus alternative theories and methodologies (1:08:06)
- The relevance of Frank Baumgartner’s work for the question of “How tractable is changing the course of history?” (1:11:11)
- The extent to which Frank Baumgartner’s various findings apply outside the US and the differences between countries (1:14:16)
- How you can use your career to most effectively encourage policy change (1:28:28)
- How Frank Baumgartner’s own career has developed, how his work relates to “advocacy,” and his recommendations for other researchers (1:34:12)
Resources discussed in the episode:
Resources by or about Frank Baumgartner:
Resources for using this podcast for a discussion group:
Transcript (Automated, imperfect)
Welcome to the Sentience Institute podcast, where we interview activists, entrepreneurs, and researchers about the most effective strategies to expand humanity's moral circle with a focus on expanding the circle to farmed animals. I'm Jamie Harris, researcher at Sentience Institute and at Animal Advocacy Careers. Welcome to our 10th episode of the podcast. I was excited to have Frank Baumgartner on the podcast because his research is highly relevant to questions of how social change happens, what causes it to happen and how social movements can use their resources. Most cost effectively when conducting research for a case study on the US anti-death penalty movement. I was highly impressed by a book that Frank Baumgartner wrote with Suzanna de Boef and Amber Boydstun on the Decline of the Death Penalty and the Discovery of Innocence. Clearly I'm not alone in being impressed by his work. Since according to Google scholar, he has been cited nearly 29,000 times.
In this episode, we zoom in on some of his research that seemed most relevant for the farmed animal movement and the broader efforts of expanding humanity's moral circle, including his work on policy dynamics, lobbying and advocacy, and on the framing of social movements and their demands on our website. We have a transcript of this episode, as well as timestamps for particular topics. We also have suggested questions and resources that can be used to run an event around this podcast and your local animal advocacy or effective altruism group. Please feel free to get in touch with us. If you have questions about this and we'd be happy to help. Frank Baumgartner is the Richard J. Richardson distinguished professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He's been an author of 11 books and editor of four books or special issues of journals and has written more articles and book chapters, than I got round to counting. Welcome to the podcast, Frank.
Well, thanks for having me.
You're very welcome. So Agendas and Instability in American Politics is filled with analysis of data that you and your colleagues collected. And you note a number of correlations of great interest to social movements, such as the farmed animal movement. For example, in your analysis of the environmental movement, you find that the amount of funding that the movement received was very closely correlated with the total number of staff employed by organizations. This increase in social movement activity was in turn correlated with an increase in media attention elsewhere. In the book you argue that media coverage is correlated with attention by policy makers, which is in turn correlated with policy outcomes. Now these are all just correlations. So the direction of causation is sometimes unclear, but you frequently argue that these various processes feed into each other in a mutually reinforcing process. To what extent do you think this provides evidence that if the funding of a social movement increases substantially, this will result in favorable policy changes?
Well, I think that the there's no determinantive correlation there, but it certainly was the case. And it often is the case. I would say wouldn't necessarily always be the case. I think there could be significant funding for an unpopular social movement or one to which many people have great antipathy, and it would not generate, um, it wouldn't necessarily generate success, even if it had significant funding. Actually, one of the things I find interesting in politics was how there's, there seems to be a limit to how much, uh, good or bad money can buy in politics. Um, and when you think about, who's got a lot of money, it'd be the corporate sector and there's a limit to how much they can get out of, uh, out of politics, no matter how much they spend. So I think for a social movement that has some popularity, uh, certainly more resources are better than fewer resources and the money staff size is going to generate more activity by that social movement and that's going to generate potentially more media coverage.
And I think the real key though, in these social movements is to change the national culture, changed the social expectations, the cultural expectations, and I would point to the movement in favor of, uh, gay and homosexual LGBTQ rights, you know, if you think about 20 years ago, the idea of gay marriage equality was announced starter in American politics and in other countries as well. And today it's the law of the land. So, uh, I don't know if that was particularly driven by money, uh, but it certainly reached a point where it cascaded into a significant, uh, public policy success and really it's reverberating through our culture. So I think that's a good, recent example about social movement that generated a massive cultural shift. And the politicians finally caught up with that.
Yeah, that's really interesting -- the idea of the importance of popularity and antipathy is not something I really picked up as being a key part of the picture from Agendas and Instability. So we can, we can dive back into that idea in a bit, but just sticking with this idea of, of money and the importance for money. Um, a key argument of Lobbying and Policy Change, another one of your books that we'll talk about various points in this interview is that the relation between control over material resources and gaining the policy goals that one wants in Washington is likely to be close to zero. This is not because the money doesn't affect power, but because the status quo already reflects the distribution of power in previous rounds of the policy process. So all told based on these things, what is your summary of the importance of money to securing policy change?
Well, first let me say you're a careful reader and I really appreciate that the, um, the issue about the example that we use and the examples that we use in Agendas and Instability, I think is a fair criticism of that book. It's one that hasn't come up very often in the years since we published it. But, uh, no, I think we discussed a total of nine policy issues, some related to social movements and some more kind of professional. And, you know, it included the pesticides, nuclear power, smoking and tobacco, child abuse, aid to cities, a range of things that I thought was a pretty good range of things, but obviously it wasn't a rent, any type of random sample of a public policy issue. So to the extent that we could generalize from that, it was merely because we had a wide range of issues, but we didn't have a scientifically selected set of issues from which to generalize.
We did have that in some other books, you know, the lobbying book in 2009 was very carefully selected set of issues that were meant to generalize about the objects of lobbying in Washington and in the politics of attention, we tried to be absolutely comprehensive looking at every issue related to government activity since world war II. So that was a whole different approach. But anyway, I think popularity does matter. It's just something that we didn't really focus on, but also I would say popularity shifts because for example, in the case of nuclear power, civilian, you know, the use of atomic energy to generate electricity. So I'm not talking about weapons and bombs, but civilian nuclear power, it was quite popular in the 1950s. And it, uh, spiral downwards in the late 1960s for a variety of reasons that we described in that book. But it really had to do with a, um, a positive feedback mechanism where people started to complain about essentially what we call it today, not in my backyard politics, but it wasn't called out at the time.
Um, and so the, the popular opinion about nuclear power shifted quite dramatically. And I think the main thing about that, that I would emphasize is that at no time was public policy discussion of any of these issues anywhere close to complete or comprehensive. It was always a very, very small subset of the possible elements of debate about nuclear power, pesticides, environmental moment in general. The other examples that we described, you know, nuclear power's a pretty complicated public policy question, but, uh, for our time in the 1940s and fifties, it was simply a "rah rah, America first, our scientists are fantastic. They developed the bomb first, and now we can use this technology that our scientific infrastructure was able to develop to defeat the Nazis. We can use it for peaceful purposes." And that was about the extent of the, uh, the debate. People got enthusiastic about the possibilities of nuclear power.
People did know that there were some potential challenges, especially with the waste and scientists involved in nuclear industry knew very well that they had no idea what to do with the highly radioactive waste, but they were so enthusiastic about the possibilities that they said, you know, at least by 1980, you know, our scientific advance will be so great that we'll have solved this problem. So let's go ahead and build these nuclear power plants throughout the country. So I think there were very clearly quite myopic and that's not all that unusual. And then in the 1960s, we shifted from that raw enthusiasm about nuclear power to, um, uh, not in my backyard kind of attitude where people got very, very concerned about the possibilities of, uh, safety problems, public health problems associated with radioactivity. And that discussion also, I think, was relatively incomplete or focused on a subset of the characteristics of that very complicated issue.
So without taking a stand pro nuclear or anti-nuclear what we described in the book was simply that our public policy debates can sometimes alternate from what we called between what we called waves of enthusiasm that were quite irrational and largely focused on a well, an enthusiasm or a "rah rah" attitude about the possibility of some new scientific advance. And then later they shifted to a, what we call the wave of criticism, where the nuclear industry couldn't do anything right. All of a sudden. So actually I think that's not an uncommon pattern for public policy debates. We get enthusiastic about the possibility of something. And then later we turned South on it. So for example, I mean, I could think of so many other examples, but one of them has, you know, a free computer software and it sounds fantastic. And then later we discover, and I think the European union has been more concerned about this than the American government, but, you know, later there's concerns about data collection and privacy concerns. And, uh, what's the financial model of these corporate entities that are offering us something apparently for free. And that was something that just was not discussed. And there was a lot of enthusiasm about these, uh, technologies. And now today, I think a lot of people are seeing a darker side of some of these, uh, software and computer infrastructure giants. And I could, I could give you other examples.
Sure. Yeah. I just want to pick up on something you mentioned a bit earlier, which was in terms of the sort of generalizability and representativeness of the issues that you chose to study as a kind of a method methodological consideration, really interesting. Something that I think about a lot with Sentience Institute's case studies, I guess I'm interested in. Well, so one point is that there is obviously a sort of a spectrum between what counts as a social movement and what counts as a, uh, a more professional policy area. Like, like you were, you were saying there's a distinction there, but, um, both, both relevant to people seeking social change. Of course. I wonder if, if you were doing the research from scratch today, would you have gone for a more attempt to get some kind of random sample and, uh, pick the, the movements or the social groups within that? Or would, do you think that the methodology you chose was, was necessary based on the available data and that sort of thing?
Well, I mean, if I had to redo the book Agendas and Instability, I can't say I would change very much about it. It's had a bigger impact than I could have imagined when we wrote the book. So I'm quite happy with that. Um, but, um, but, but I, I would say that, you know, in a career where you're doing political science research and public policy research and one book, cause it's not the end of your career. So over the years, I've studied a wide range of things and use all kinds of different methodologies. And, and I, you know, never have, I had to go back to a previous book or article and say, you know, what, that one was really misleading and whatever I published about it, uh, I would disown those conclusions. You know, we approach things, um, from a variety of different methodological perspectives.
And if we continue to get similar findings and results, that make sense, and then we accumulate a better understanding of the underlying process. But I would say also that these processes that we're analyzing are very complicated. You know, they're very complex in the sense that there's multiple causal agents and they're rapidly interacting with each other and, uh, in the, you know, in dynamic systems. And so it's not that easy to, well, it's impossible. I think it is actually impossible, statistically impossible. They're not determinative processes, they're highly interactive. And so it's impossible to give point predictions the way I think about it is, and we just described this, I think a little bit in the book, the politics of attention, it's kind of like the difference between understanding the nature of how the climate operates, how the atmospheric pressure changes and how hurricanes develop, uh, and what people would call climate science.
Then we have, I think, a very good understanding, or I don't, but I think scientists do who are involved in atmospheric science. They understand how the atmosphere works, but they would, they would look at you with a puzzled look, if you said exactly what will be the temperature and the wind speed at a certain place at a certain time three and a half years from today, that would be a question that they wouldn't even think is a reasonable way to ask the question. So it's the difference between weather forecasting and climate science. And I think in political science, we've been too involved in the weather forecasting and we haven't paid much attention as much attention as we should to the basic underlying science about how the system works.
Yeah, sure. Just to check in on that, are you still optimistic that building that understanding of the basic sciences you put, it can increase your confidence about more general predictions about trends and patterns going forward, as opposed to the example you gave of a specific issue or a specific change happening?
Absolutely. And I think that our understanding, like in my career, one of the things that I've done, uh, focused on the most is developing the, the theory of punctuated equilibrium. And I think, um, recognizing that things occasionally go through real transformations with radical change has changed. People's understanding of what we can expect out of government. It's a much more fruitful way to think about how policy changes within government. It is true that for the most part, governments are very high bound status quo oriented, but every once in a while that's thrown out and people recognize that there's a crisis or a certain set of policy. Actors are discredited and other people come in and follow a different paradigm. And I think those events are relatively rare compared to the periods of stability. But if we don't understand them, then we can't understand long, long periods of policy history in any domain.
So I think by looking at those fundamentals, you know, it really gives us a better understanding of the process. But I would also say, I cannot tell you exactly. And I think if anyone says they can, they're misleading you. I can't tell you exactly when a punctuation is going to occur. That's a similar to how people study earthquakes, you know, they understand or volcanoes, they understand the process that is going to lead to a higher probability of an earthquake or a volcano or the development of a hurricane in the ocean, but they can't tell you exactly which one will develop unless they happen to be monitoring it as it occurs. And they can say, well, it's about to happen, you know, tomorrow that, but that's not really a scientific prediction. That's simply observing things in real time.
Yeah, it makes sense. But at the same time, presumably what we were talking about before with all those various correlates and processes that interlink, if you saw a convergence of some of those processes, you'd be much more confident in expecting that there was some, that some sort of punctuation was likely within a certain timeframe.
Yeah, absolutely. And that's what we're looking for. And, but it's probabilistic because, you know, there's so many things that we can't necessarily, uh, observe such as, uh, when, is an argument going to find a fertile ground in the public, which arguments will people find compelling and which arguments will people be able to counter argue successfully. We, we really don't have a good understanding of, but certainly you're absolutely right. That when we see certain things come together and indicates that the probability of a policy change is more or less likely.
Cool. Okay. Yeah. That was a great introduction to the idea of punctuated equilibrium, which is one of the key arguments of Agendas and Instability, and several of your other works, I guess, would you be able to just give a concise summary of what that idea actually is and the evidence that Agendas and Instability brought to bear on the issue?
Well, the idea of punctuated equilibrium, you know, we borrowed the analogy from evolutionary biology, but the idea of public policy is that for the most part, we see the institutions of government and the social forces surrounding government generating policy outcomes that are relatively speaking at equilibrium are relatively stable at any given point in time. And that they're driven, um, that way by institutional expectations, institutional structures support by the, those in power of the policies that they may have created themselves in the past. And so they're not interested in changing them and they develop standard operating procedures from other policies that generate us stability or, and technically the way we describe it is that if there is a, an exogenous shock or some pressure for change, there'll be a countervailing -- so negatively correlated -- feedback and a negative feedback system is like a household thermostat that will generate, you know, cold air comes on.
If the atmosphere heats up and if the atmosphere surrounding the house, it gets colder in the winter time, then the heat comes on. So whatever, uh, outside pressure is applied to the system, the system responds with the opposite pressure in order to maintain stability. So that's a stable system and a thermostat at home thermostat is a perfect example of a system that's, uh, operates with negative feedback and therefore generates stability. So that's the equilibrium part of punctuated equilibrium. The punctuation part is when things go haywire, that is, uh, when a policy change a policy or response to that, or a pressure generates a change that generates a further change that generates a further pressure so that we see a positive feedback system, which is by its nature mathematically explosive, something that can't last forever, but it might last the long enough time to generate, for example, to dismantle the institutional structure that maintain the previous equilibrium.
If you change the structure, you might then generate a new equilibrium. And then that will settle down into a stable functioning for another period of time. So the idea is really that there's no reason to believe that an existing policy equilibrium will last forever. And it could be that when the comes, it won't be through some moderate, incremental accumulation of slow changes. It might very well be a little bit more catastrophic in nature because the institutional structure, if it remains in place will seek or fight to maintain that stability. So in order to change the policy, you really have to make some wholesale changes to the institutional structures,
That idea that of punctuated equilibrium being a, almost a, a rebuttal or change in theory, from the idea of incrementalism, do you see this as a, an argument or encouragement to those who are seeking positive social change to essentially push for more radical changes rather than small incremental changes? So I'll give an example. In the farmed animal movement, there's been some, some interest in banning factory farming as a whole. It's been proposed by Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker in the US and it's actually supported by according to a survey that Sentience Institute conducted at least one third of the population. Yeah. As opposed to say, banning battery cages or some more minor welfare reform, do you see punctuated equilibrium as encouraging that sort of more radical push?
Um, certainly it, the logic of punctuated equilibrium, uh, suggests that if you can change the culture and you can change the way people understand the underlying issue in question, then you can achieve much more dramatic changes than you would if you think that the culture has given the understanding of the issues are given, and those can't be changed. So, you know, yeah, I think that it, it, it is a, a philosophy or a perspective on policy change that suggests that sometimes you can, you can see really dramatic changes. The key thing is changing how people think about the issue. When we think about, say an example that we discussed in the pork was the, the industries surrounding pesticides and insecticides and all kinds of chemicals. And in the 1940s and fifties through, uh, through the late fifties, you know, the US science scientists had, and Dow chemical company had invented or developed a DDT.
And it was considered to be the wondrous, new chemical, uh, opportunity to eliminate malaria, to destroy the worldwide, um, population of mosquitoes, eliminate river blindness, eliminate all kinds of disease and pestilence that was driven by the mosquito. And, uh, when people say, you know, we're going to eliminate blindness, you know, we're gonna eliminate, uh, not blindness, but river blindness that, that particular disease borne by mosquitoes, and we're going to eliminate malaria, you know, who's opposed to that? So it's, it's really an optimistic perspective. And many times big industrial interests with huge amounts of financial interest in an underlying industry are able to demonstrate it, to create for themselves a public image that is phenomenally positive and also quite myopic. And so we saw in the case of DDT, you know, some incredible, uh, oversteps on the part of the chemical industry and of the U S government in the 1950s, to such an extent that there was a, uh, nationwide not nationwide, but the entire South Eastern part of the United States was subjected to a policy of, uh, aerial spraying of DDT in order to eradicate completely the fire ant from the Southeastern part of the United States.
And so they had actual aerial spraying for our time in the 1950s, that would to some huge catastrophes, such as 55 gallon drums of pure DDT being mistakenly, falling out of airplanes into lakes and killing all the fish and, you know, some terrible outcomes from that policy, which itself, when you think in retrospect was amazing that somebody would ever think that we should do that. And yet the US government did exactly that. And, you know, I think they were motivated by good reasoning who wants to have an infestation of fire ants. Wouldn't it be nice if we could get rid of those? Anyway, that was the philosophy at the time. So the change in policy, it didn't come from people already in charge thinking that maybe they made a mistake. It came from people who had never liked these policies in the first place, being able to change the public image or understanding of what that policy was all about from scientific advance and protecting us from natural predators and, you know, insects and bugs that we might not like to an issue of, you know, who's in charge of the earth and why should we be able to destroy these entire species, uh, just for our own convenience.
And can we really guarantee that there won't be unintended consequences of these policies and maybe pesticides are doing us more harm than good. So that changed, uh, was a dramatic change. And it, wasn't a, just an incremental little shift. And I think that's how, that's how these changes work.
Yeah, really interesting example there. And when I was reading that in the book, it made me the sort of positive aura around DDT and those, those pesticides made me think of a case study that J, a former researchers and his Institute did on the, the history of genetically modified foods, because there again, there was this sort of really positive mission driven, let's solve all the world's problems type approach at the start of the technology. Yet, it ended up being banned for, for various risks and concerns that people with it. So really interesting how those, those sort of mission driven startups can, can then end up in that whole different realm of public opinion.
There's so many examples, but I would just say that when there's money involved, you really want to understand what's the PR machine for that industry going to be generating. And sometimes there's not that much money involved, but like, for example, I would say in that issue in the area of, uh, criminal justice, you know, and the 1980s and nineties, we pretty much went haywire in my, in my, from my perspective, we went way overboard on the issue of fear of crime. And we develop policies that pretty much amount to throw people in jail and throw away the key. We developed a policy of life without the possibility of parole. And today, I think we're understanding 35 years later after those policies have been enacted. We're understanding that well, when we enacted those policies without talking about it, we also agreed that we would be comfortable having a country with tens of thousands of 65 and 70 year old inmates in our nation's prisons.
And that's unprecedented in the history of human population, you know, and, um, but it was, and it's a logical consequence if we eliminate the possibility of parole, that when people commit crimes, you know, usually they're in their twenties and well, 40 years later, they're going to be in their sixties. And if there's no possibility that they can never leave prison, then we're going to end up with tens of thousands of people in their sixties and seventies in our nation's prisons. And that's exactly where we are today, uh, for the first time in human history. So I think the way we have to think about it is just that we can't count on our political leaders or our social systems to have comprehensive, rational understandings of complicated public policies. So we're going to lurch from one partial understanding of the policy to another equally incomplete understanding of the policy. And those incomplete understandings will generate the policy direction for some years, maybe 20 years, 10 years, maybe 50 years will go on in a certain direction until there's some overreach and there's a social movement or a professional norm that changes to move us in a different direction based on another kind of policy paradigm.
Yeah. I want to go back to something you mentioned earlier when you were talking about radicalism. And also we discussed earlier the idea of popularity being important. One issue that you studied in some depth is the US anti death penalty movement. And this is a movement whose primary goal does not have majority support. Do you have any thoughts about how social movements should strategize when they have minority public support for their goals and whether that differs from how they should strategize, if they have majority public support?
I think the public depends on how the public thinks about and understands the issue. So, for example, if you asked the question, do you support coddling criminals? Nobody's going to ever say they support coddling criminals. And if you ask the question, do you support torturing people who are guilty of a routine robbery? People would say, no, they don't support that either. And so it really depends on how you ask the question. So evaluating where public support stands. I think I requires an understanding of how to people approach the question and you can make people approach the question. And I think that's, if you can change how people think about the underlying question, that's where the possibility for dramatic policy change happens.
So in various research projects, I've done like some of the case studies and, and, uh, tech adoption case studies on nuclear power. For example, the summary of my impression from that research is that public opinion is an important predictor of legislative action, but, but change is surprisingly tractable without public support as well. Do you have any thoughts on that broad impression?
Yeah. I think that in terms of policy change, there's so many detailed questions of public policy. That for the most part, there is no public opinion on the vast majority of policy options that our policymakers are confronted with. So there might be a general public orientation towards this or that question, but by the time the thing gets translated into a policy proposal and all its gory detail, there is no public opinion on how many parts per million should be allowed of lead and drinking water or something like that. It's, um, you know, it becomes a matter for experts. So there might be an orientation we need to clean up the environment, or we need to promote business no matter what happens. That's the kind of level where we see public opinion, but by the time we translate that into policy options, I don't think it's even reasonable to think about, about any detailed level of public opinion on those issues. There's some counter examples. Of course, you know, people have opinions on certain topics, but I think in general, there's a disjuncture between the, the vagueness or the ambiguity of the generality of public opinion on most issues and the highly detailed nature of policy debates among policy makers.
Yeah. One thing that came up on this is in your, in Agendas and Instability the, I guess, with these various correlations and trends that we're looking at, we're kind of looking to see the, how the chronology of them compares to get a sense of potential causal relations. And, uh, I, I forget which specific example, but it was, you talked about, but it, you noted it. I think it might be new compare. Actually, you noted that public opinion shifted essentially after some of the other processes seem to have started suggesting that it was a kind of following factor rather than the driving, even in one
Of those fairly major policy shifts that you noticed. Yeah. And I think that's similar also with, um, the death penalty it's policy actors are promoting new arguments such as it costs a lot. And then later the public opinion catches up with that. Or, um, in the case of, uh, smoking and tobacco at once, it became highly restricted, then public opinion came to understand that, you know, this is a dangerous policy and that there needs to be great restriction. So, and I think you mentioned also the European response to, uh, the abolition of the death penalty. Oftentimes those abolition movements, uh, were highly elite. Uh, there was no big social movement at the base. Uh, and yet once the, uh, capital punishment was abolished in different countries, public opinion, for the most part, moved to accept that as the natural course of things. And so it became an extreme position to suggest that we should reestablish the death penalty and, and European countries.
So I think public opinion often lags, and you see it again with gay rights and gay marriage, marriage equality, people are catching up to that, uh, rather than leading it. So I got interested in the study of the death penalty because I was interested in these questions about framing, how issues get framed. Uh, traditionally the death policy had been framed, uh, almost in biblical or religious, uh, terms and based on, uh, people's ideological or religious perspectives on justice and whether they believed in turning the other cheek or an eye for an eye basically. And, uh, that's not the way I would think about the death penalty, but I think that's been a common understanding that, um, it was really something that was based on your religious perspective since it's based on a religious perspective about, uh, justice. Uh, it's very difficult to get anybody to change their mind on something that they may have learned in church when they were a child.
And they accepted, uh, as a given fact because it's based on faith. So that's about the worst possible scenario for policy change or for attitude change because people aren't willing to listen to a reasoned argument if it's a matter of faith. And I say this without regard to, um, the people who were protest penalty or anti death penalty, because on both sides, it was a relatively speaking and article of faith. So the big change in the death penalty came when people started to talk about the possibility that the government doesn't always do things right, and we might execute some people who are innocent. And that was the shift in the policy image. And the way of thinking about the question of the death penalty that caused people, even who might support the death penalty in the abstract to stop asking the question, it showed a person who commits a homicide, be sentenced to death and potentially executed an eye for an eye kind of way.
A lot of people that's the religious background and they, they believe in that other people don't, and it's a relatively fixed, uh, debate as long as it's on those terms, but why don't we start at talking about the possibility that the government makes mistakes and that that would involve in this case, uh, a tragic error as an, our name we would execute and, you know, some person, uh, even people who support the death penalty in the abstract were horrified by that. And the funny thing about it is that we've had the possibility of errors in the criminal justice system throughout our history throughout human history. We've had errors, there's been examples of, um, mistakes and the death penalty throughout US history. And another cases you don't have to go past the Salem witch trials to think of cases when people have been sentenced to death when they were innocent of the crime. So, um, it's a new way of thinking about something that's been staring us in the face the entire time, literally for hundreds of years, but we didn't consider it that way. So it's another example of an impartial public debate that focuses solely on one or two aspects of really complicated public policy and because of its incompleteness, uh, occasionally it can change
That book, the Decline of the Death Penalty and the Discovery of Innocence, if it feels like it's a very compelling case for the importance of framing, as potentially leading to substantial policy change, social change, all that sort of thing. But I actually, when I was reading Lobbying and Policy change, one of your other books, it felt like this was, there was sort of contrary evidence to that. So you find that in that book, that 41% of the issues in the sample that you studied underwent some policy change during the four years of your research, but only 4% of those actually saw some sort of framing change. So framing, yeah. It doesn't feel like it's necessarily doesn't necessarily account for very large proportion of policy change that we actually see. So yeah, I guess I wanted to seek your overall view on that, that massive question of, to what extent you believe that policy change is attributable to intentional changes in issue framing?
Yeah, I think it's completely, uh, I shouldn't say completely, but the framing really matters and framing as what explains that dramatic changes in policies that we observe. But I would also say that when you take a cross section of issues at a particular point in time as was our strategy in the book on lobbying in 2009, you know, for most policies, most of the time their is set and stable on it's the same as it was five years previously, or one year previously or 10 years previously, there's no dramatic shift. So even when we looked at the other examples that we've been discussing today, which was nuclear power or the chemical pesticides industry, you know, for most of the time, the framing that's dominates is the same frame that dominated two years previously. It's just that occasionally there's a moment of dramatic change. So if we look at a 50 year time history of the death penalty, we would see that there's a period of dramatic shift and rising attention to the issue of innocence.
And then later more recently there's been a rise in attention to the issue of cost and a rise in attention to the issue of a botched executions because of the problems in obtaining lethal injection chemicals or drugs. But if we look at the entire history for the most part, it's relatively stable, but then there's occasional periods when new arguments arise. So I think those, those findings actually, perhaps in a complicated way, they are a complimentary, I mean, punctuated equilibrium is mostly about equilibrium. Mathematically. Most of the periods are periods of equilibrium. It's just that when the change comes, which is rare, that's dramatic. So, um, but if we looked at, you know, a hundred observations, we would find that the vast majority of those observations are during periods of stability. And so most people in political science that focus just on the, those elements of stability and tried to understand what's called structure induced equilibrium, or other factors that generate stability and the status quo orientation and those things are absolutely correct. It's just that they're incomplete and what they overlook is the short but unusual periods. Um, but, but important periods when we shift our understanding of an underlying issue,
One thing I wanted to dip into is this idea of, of the importance of, of media coverage and tone. And with that, the idea of those when we were talking about the death penalty and the rise of the innocence framing, the key change there is is that a shift to a different sort of top subtopic of the conversation. It brings with it a shift in the tone of coverage. And this is something that you discuss in Agendas and Instability as well. Uh, there's the example there of nuclear power because for nuclear power discussion of economic or financial effects was very favorable to nuclear power, whereas discussion of health or environmental effects was very critical. So as coverage increased, the coverage actually shifted from an almost exclusive focus on economic or financial, therefore fairly positive coverage towards an almost exclusive focus on health or environmental effects. So this importance of change coming through a slight shift in the kind of subtopics of discussion or frames, does that mean that a key research priority for impact-focused social movements should be to essentially just work out which topics of media coverage are most consistently positive, so they can then work out which issues to try and shift attention towards?
Absolutely, but also to try out new ones, we have to think about, let's say you have a complicated public policy issue that has multiple implications for different sectors of society. There might be a predominant way of understanding that issue that is, uh, uh, very favorable towards whatever status quo interests are benefiting from that industry or policy. That's why there's an industry and policy in place. And it has to be justified by some underlying understanding. So how would you destabilize that? Well, you need a new way to think about that, that issue. So I would say, yeah, absolutely. We need to understand in order to understand the likelihood of future policy change, we have to understand how the media, but also the public comes to just understand what's their cultural perspective on the issue. For example, you think about the gay rights movement. People were opposed, many people un-involved in the gay rights movement themselves.
So outsiders or bystanders or onlookers were opposed to it, as long as they understood that it was asking for some kind of what they would call special rights. And to the extent that they were made to understand that nobody was asking for special rights, there were simply asking for equal rights. That was a big shift in the debate about, uh, gay rights and marriage equality. Uh, so, so it really made a big difference. And I, you know, we could multiply the examples, like for example, smoking and tobacco and other issue that we talked about in Agendas, and Instability, you know, as similar to nuclear power in the sense that as long as it was discussed in terms of the economic power and might of the tobacco industry and its export, um, markets overseas and how American companies made so much money and provided so many jobs, uh, politicians, you know, wanted to support the industry because it generated jobs and tax revenue and American exports.
But as the evidence became clearer that it had catastrophic health consequences for Americans. And in particular, when we shifted to the concept of secondhand smoke, uh, that was a big shift in how people thought about the tobacco industry. Now it was a threat to my health because you were choosing to smoke as opposed to a personal choice that you might make knowing the risks. And so the tobacco industry is another example of one where we saw a huge really, I mean, when I was young, I mean, my mother had asthma and we had ashtrays still in the house, no one in our house smoked, but when people came over to our house, they expected to be able to light up a cigar or a pipe or a cigarette right. In our house, right. In our home, even though everybody there, including family members knew that my mother suffered from asthma. So I think that's pretty much unimaginable today, but it was the case back then, because there was such a cultural strength of the smoker. And so there's only a few examples I can think of in my lifetime where the cultural shift has been that great. So those would be marriage equality for gays and the position of smokers. So those are examples that show that, you know, these changes can be really dramatic.
Okay, great. So with that process, then you, this idea that shifting framing seems really important, what do you think is the process through which social movements can work out? What the optimal framing is? You mentioned that social movements need to try out new frames, should they conduct focus groups and then follow this up with well designed experiments to test messaging conditions? Uh, or is there something more intangible that would be missed out in that sort of approach?
Well, I guess if I had the right answer to this, I would quit my job as a political scientist and start up a consulting firm because if we really understood how we could make these things happen, uh, we could determine outcomes in every area of public policy. So that's, that's something that I, I'm not confident that we have the knowledge to know precisely what to do. But I do think that, uh, there's a couple clear elements. One is to understand what arguments work. So to do that kind of research that you're thinking about, which is testing out possible frames, but the other is take a cue from the advertising industry and then find out how expensive is it to promote a new frame. I feel like political science has not really understood advertising in the public relations world, even though political consultants certainly are doing that.
But political scientists, including myself have not really adequately come to understand, for example, how many times do you need to repeat an argument before people begin to understand it? Or how can we get certain frames and arguments injected through free media, into the public discourse? You know, I can track it and see that it's happening, but I have not been able to, for example, in my research, identify an individual person who was particularly good at it, I would say that it's a trial and error process because when you think about, if someone were really good at this, they should always win, but they don't, they lose a lot. So when you think about Ralph Nader before he was a presidential candidate, of course he was an advocate consumer rights, and he had many successes and his kind of quixotic campaign sometimes against corporate giants, like general motors, but he did score a lot of successes and some big policy wins.
But I would say if you looked at his track record or the track record of any policy entrepreneur in Washington, they're going to have way more losses than wins. And so it just goes to show that, you know, for one, the other side will fight back and you don't know, maybe they have a counter argument that will appeal better to the public. Then, then your argument, or maybe they simply have more money, so they can speak for the larger megaphone, or maybe you just haven't thought of the right tack to take or the right argument to use against them in order to destabilize their position. So, you know, they, the difficulty in the study of framing is counter framing. The fact that it's a competitive process on the other side, wasn't born yesterday and they might have a lot of money to lose if there's a reversal or a change in the way the public understands a given policy.
Do you have any other thoughts on how groups can actually? So, so for context, a key argument in Lobbying and Policy Changes what you were just saying, essentially that it's, it's easy enough to create new framings, but very difficult to actually get people, to adopt them and to make the frame fairly dominant. Do you have any other thoughts on what the mechanisms are through which reframing can be done? Because actually as a kind of counter example to what you were just saying from your own work is in the Decline of the Death Penalty and the Discovery of Innocence. I read that as providing evidence that a small number of thoughtful actors can play a role in promoting particular frames of discussion of a topic, especially with the innocence projects with pivotal scholar, activists, like Rob Warden and Lawrence Marshall. So that seems to be one example of where a new frame of how those activists were actually encouraging a new frame. Do you have any other thoughts on the mechanisms through which it can be done intentionally?
Well, I think the examples are when we can learn from the examples of when it has been done. So that's certainly a good example of one that it really has been done. If you look at the tobacco industry, I feel like the public health community mobilized, but they were in a long drawn out war from about 1960 until the 1990s with the tobacco industry. And they were losing, losing, losing until finally they had some big successes. And so I think they simply tried every trick in the book. And you know, the funny thing about how I think they finally achieved success was that they, they recognize that the tobacco industry had never lost a lawsuit about wrongful death or injury because the tobacco industry was able to say, well, there's a correlation between the use of tobacco products and the likelihood that you might develop lung cancer.
However, we can't prove it. You can't prove it. And any particular person's case and the big change for the tobacco industry was when the attorney general of the state of Mississippi sued the tobacco industry on behalf of the state Medicare program. And he said, I'm not trying to prove that John Smith got tobacco, got cancer from your product, but I'm responsible. Our state Medicare program has X millions of beneficiaries, and we've got, you know, 400,000 cases here. I'm making these numbers up by the way, but we've got multiple hundreds of thousands of cases of lung cancer. You've already admitted that there's a statistical correlation. So we can't prove which individual people got that lung cancer from smoking, but here's the statistical patterns that are apparent. And then all the other attorneys general across the United States joined in this lawsuit and that led to the master settlement.
And so that was a kind of a legal brainstorm that must have occurred in some kind of attorney general working group. Uh, and, you know, in retrospect that's the, that was a key moment. And then it has led to all kinds of changes. And as we described and the first book Agendas and Instability one change, but get further changes. And so now the cultural understanding is very firm. That tobacco is very dangerous and in particular it's dangerous for third parties. So I guess I would just say there's no one way it happens in a lot of ways. We can look at examples. The interesting thing about the tobacco industry was when I was in college and we were studying in Lobbying and Policy Change, the tobacco industry was always laid out as the, um, example, the prototypical example of the powerful lobbying industry, because it had congressional support.
It had several seats in the United States Senate. It had a very positive cultural image and it was used as the example kind of like the gun industry is used today as an example of a vested interest that will probably never be unseated and yet it was unseated. So that was a very interesting example of where there was a lot of money involved and the big money was actually on the defensive and the big money case lost in that case, the death penalty case. Uh, I also noticed when I was doing that book, there was almost no money involved on either side. It's not a, it's not a case where there's a huge industrial interest, you know, a corporate interest that's making billions of dollars per year, you know, like Boeing or Airbus or the airplane companies. There's just a lot of money on the table. And certainly with tobacco, there was a lot of money on the table and the death penalty case and criminal justice reform. It's not that much money on the table. So it's a different process in any case. I think the things that are, uh, that we don't quite know are how will your opponent respond to your effort to shift the frame? And, uh, that's a competitive process and it requires a lot of ingenuity. And I think continued work to try out different tactics and arguments.
Yeah. You mentioned the idea of money on the table, making it a different process. This is something that a lot of social movements have to face is these sort of powerful, vested, interests and well resourced groups, that sort of thing. The farmed animal movement is an example of that. The Center for Responsive Politics has estimated that the agribusiness industry as a whole spent $139 million on lobbying in the US in 2019. And by comparison Lewis Bollard of Open Philanthropy has recently estimated that there's probably less than 180 million US dollars that are spent on farmed animal advocacy internationally and less than a hundred million of that is in the US and of course only a tiny portion of that goes towards lobbying. So there's this huge financial imbalance. Do you have any thoughts about what that sort of imbalance in resources suggests for the optimal strategy for social movements in that kind of situation?
Well, I guess, I mean, it's not that uncommon that there's a David versus Goliath kind of effort. And so the thing about, uh, the other thing, I think that creates a problem in the farm in the ant and in anything related to agriculture is the outsize influence, uh, in terms of our electoral institutions of farmers. And so I think there needs to be some kind of change, uh, related to how we think about, um, farming in general. Uh, I feel like I used to use it as an example, and I remember in my teaching about framing and I think about what are the, uh, iconic frames that are promoted by industrial interests. And one of them was the Marlboro man for smoking and the cultural resonance of the cigarette that was so powerful in Hollywood movies for so long today, it's kind of unimaginable, but that was very, very powerful. Um, and similarly, the family farmer is this incredible icon of American, and I think other countries, uh, political rhetoric as well, but the family farmer is different than the actual reality of American agriculture. And so I think shifting that understanding would be important, but, you know, good luck to you because the other side's gonna fight back hard on that one.
Yeah. One for listeners to ponder, I guess. Okay. So another question I have is about the importance of the tone of media coverage relative to the sort of salience and volume of media coverage and yeah. And the, the effects of those on policy change. So something I was thinking about when I was reading Agendas and Instability is that you talk, or you talk about policy monopolies being set up in waves of popular enthusiasm. And so a relevant example of this for the farmed animal movement is how there is according to at least some research, some unpublished empirical research by somebody called James Painter at the university of Oxford, suggests that media coverage of cultured meat -- so that's animal products grown from animal cells, but without requiring the slaughter of animals -- it's actually really quite favorable. So does that just suggest that for instance, if we wanted a favorable policy monopoly to be set up, does that suggest that the key lever to pull on is essentially just to try and encourage as much media discussion as possible and hope that a favorable policy subsystem is, is set up out of that. And yeah. How, how does that compare to that topic of tone?
I would add another aspect to this, which comes from the work of John Kingdon, who was actually one of my professors and who also studied agenda setting and how policy changes occur and focused on these dramatic punctuations. And that's the distinction between a problem and its solution. And so I think, uh, if it, and oftentimes in politics, people debate about whether a certain, uh, public policy is creating a problem, or is it the solution to some other problem? So for example, Ronald Reagan was very effective and other conservative thinkers were very effective in saying that, uh, welfare programs were a problem because there were generating dependency and previously, uh, scholars had, or policymakers had suggested that welfare programs were a solution to the problem of poverty. So unemployment compensation as a solution to the problem of, uh, inadequate job distribution around the country, or, or, you know, poverty programs are necessary because the programs are attacking a particular problem, but then Reagan came around and tried to change that.
And I think today, a lot of people understand welfare programs as generating problems rather than being a solution. So is a particular public policy, a problem, or a solution. And as a particular policy reform, a potential solution to a problem that everybody recognizes. And I think the problem that is really growing that people would love to see solutions for this climate change. And so promoting any policy change that can be suggested to be a potential solution to a problem that everybody recognizes is definitely a useful thing to try to do. So link your policy reform to an underlying problem that people recognize would love to see solved, and then claim that you have the solution to it. And I could give so many examples of this, where even with goat to go back to the DDT issue, you know, they claim that they had the solution to, um, agricultural shortages, but the miracle of chemicals and fertilizers would generate an agricultural bounty that they called the green revolution.
And they promoted this idea so strongly that they could, they could completely eliminate human hunger from the planet. They also said that they could completely eliminate certain terrible diseases such as malaria. There's another example from the pharmaceutical industry where they said that they could completely eliminate the condition of pain from the human condition. And so if the pharmaceutical industry developing these new drugs in the 1980s and nineties could say that, you know, we have developed this new scientific advance and look at what we can do. Now we can ask every doctor to monitor every person that comes into their office for whether or not they're suffering from any pain. Uh, and then if they are suffering from pain, we should treat that as a vital sign. And it should be automatic that we should, of course, want to alleviate pain from any patients day-to-day condition.
And, you know, that was ridiculous. That was the beginning of the epidemic of, of the use of painkillers. Uh, and we're still suffering from that, but it came from a, an industrial self-interest and they said, well, we sell this product. How could we sell the product? We can say that it's the solution to a very widely understood problem. So if we could just emphasize the severity of the problem, then our, our product will naturally become a solution that will be adopted to, uh, solve that problem. So I think it's really helpful to think about what's the problem that your proposed policy solution is a solution for early answer to, and then promote attention to that problem.
Yeah. So that was one advantage of a, of a potential framing shift could be to do that sort of tapping into the existing interests of priorities and priorities of the public or institutional decision makers of various kinds. And so an example for the farmed animal movement, as, as you just suggested that could be tapping into environmental concerns or health issues, uh, rather than say animal welfare issues, but then another advantage of shifting framing that I was thinking about during your book, uh, on lobbying, especially, is that it can, it could enable a movement to sort of pick a battleground where the terrain is more suitable. So for instance, the farmed animal movement might choose to focus on ethical arguments for animal wellbeing instead, because there's just less of a good or less of a plausible counter-argument that the animal agriculture industry could offer. So, yeah. Do you have any thoughts on that and which of those two framing shift advantages seems more important?
I guess I don't have a strong view because I don't really know enough about the particular issue, but they, the question would be what's the counter argument and what's the potential audience for your argument and what's the potential audience for the counter-argument? I think to the extent that it's a solution to, you know, Amazon rainforest destruction and climate change, I think, you know, it's clear that more and more people are understanding that as something that is becoming an urgent problem, that we really have to solve. To the extent that it relates to the ethical and moral dilemmas of how animals are farmed and raised; Um, I think some people don't care about that and other people can be made to care about that a lot because they would be so outraged if they saw, you know, perhaps what was, what was standard practice in the industry.
Yeah. Another question that the farmed animal movement has debated is the extent to which we should target our advocacy efforts towards influencers and professional audiences or towards the general population. And a key argument in Agendas and Instability is that equilibrium is set up at least temporarily within particular policy subsystems when particular groups managed to establish a policy monopoly, which is something we referring to a bit earlier. And, you know, in the book that this is usually accomplished when professional communities argued that the questions to be decided are highly complex technical matters. And so thinking about this topic, I updated my preferences slightly towards focusing on professional communities over popular public grassroots type outreach, because there needs to be a sort of credible professional group that could form the basis of a policy monopoly. If one were to be established. Do you have any thoughts on that takeaway I had from the book?
Well, I think also the credible professional has to also come in professional community is typically the community that comes up with a well-thought-out and well-documented policy proposal that can work. Uh, where if it's only coming out of a diffuse social moment, that's got popular roots, people can say, well, I really appreciate the concerns that people have, but we really don't have any workable solutions that fit in with these priorities. So developing the workable solutions and, uh, I think is really important. And that typically comes out of, uh, organized interests in professional communities. You know, sometimes some really big changes happen totally within professional communities. Another example that we talked about in Agendas and Instability was divorce law. You know, we moved from 19 in one decade, the United States moved from a system where it was very difficult to get divorced to one where, uh, in virtually every state you could have, what's called no fault divorce, sometimes derisively call divorce on demand, but it meant that you didn't have to go through all the legal hassles of demonstrating fault and everything.
And the divorce rate increased quite dramatically, but there was no popular movement demanding the right to get divorced. It was a professional shift among people who were involved in family law and the judges and attorneys. And it was actually quite similar in automobile crash liability in the 1970s. So there was a, just a kind of understanding that there was a, what an economist would call a dead weight loss that could be taken out of the system. When every time two people had a fender bender, it used to be in the 1960s that the insurance companies had to litigate about who was at fault. And the insurance companies finally figured out that, you know, half the time their driver was at fault half the time the other driver was at fault, but by litigating every time to figure it out, both sides were losing a lot of money.
So we developed this thing about no fault divorce, but also no fault auto insurance. And so there was no popular movement in either of those cases, but they're pretty significant policy changes, deregulation of industries. Also, I don't think that was any kind of popular movement. That was an elite led argument by economists. So there's been a lot of such policy changes throughout, you know, policy history in so many areas where there was no popular movement really, and the same with the death penalty. It's not like there's some big social movement out there working on the death penalty. It's more, it's not necessarily all professionals because there are some advocacy groups working in that area, but we're not seeing hundreds of thousands of people marching on Washington to demand the end of the death penalty. So I think every policy is slightly different with regards to its openness to a mass movement or it's containment to a small group of professionals.
Yeah, that's the idea of there not being a mass social movement is something I was really interested in when I was doing my case study of the US anti death penalty movement. And actually in, in the European case, especially that there has been substantial change, despite it being there being low popular support for this issue at being predominantly a kind of, as you say, a lead change. And yet, despite that, since laws have changed in Europe over the past few decades, popular opinion has, has, seemed to shift towards the direction of the change that has been introduced. So that was something that came out of that topic. That was really interesting to me. We've been talking a lot about the various theories in, in Agendas and Instability and Lobbying Policy Change. And I found both to be really highly persuasive and full of views from empirical data, but I haven't really had time to dig into the academic response to your works yet. What do you think are some of the most common critiques of your works and their arguments?
Well, I remember when we did our book on lobbying, we asked all the lobbyists to indicate the arguments that were most effective is by their opponents, but we never got any good information out of that. And so your question to me reminds me of that very useless question that we posed to our lobby, but I'll try to be a better respondent than, than they were, I think on the, on the, um, issue of punctuated equilibrium, people have simply suggested that. And actually the, one of the most honest responses I got from somebody that I know who's a very prominent advocate of structural induced equilibrium, he said, well, I'll take it if I can only explain 95% of the cases with a very simple theory. And so I think one argument was, this is too complicated. We don't need it. Another argument was that it overlooks the possibility of gradual slow, but steady policy reforms.
I think there's also some other perspectives, uh, policy change that aren't really in contradiction with my, uh, approach, but which simply is a different vocabulary. And that would be the literature on path dependency. For example, I mean, I think we have a lot in common with the people who focused on path dependency, but we target the issue of, um, uh, how you might, that that path might not go on forever, but I don't disagree with the people who talk about path dependency, but I do wonder what's good. Maybe there'll be a second punctuation, you know, and I think our theory is a little bit more general, but so I don't know that there's been that much critique. I think, I mean, there has been critique, but it's more like it doesn't affect everybody's thinking people don't necessarily adopt it. They go on either saying, well, I don't really care about these rare events where policies are dramatically shifted.
I'm going to study just the more tractable periods of steady functioning of an institutional structure that maintains some kind of equilibrium. And I think that's very common in American political science because you can use much more mathematical at least sophisticated tools to study the functioning of a stable equilibrium system. So some of the differences really been kind of by a methodological approach because our methodological approach has been open to messiness and to the fact that we can't really explain every, every possible outcome and to accept that and to be comfortable with that messiness and complexity and the world around us. And I think other theorists, depending on their kind of training, uh, are just not comfortable with that idea of messiness.
Yeah, really interesting. A topic that I dipped into when I first started at Sentience Institute was the fairly ambitious question of "How tractable is changing the course of history?" And we were really interested in whether a small group of thoughtful actors, such as the individuals in a single animal advocacy, nonprofit could have a substantial impact on shaping the direction of social change. I think your work has fairly ambiguous evidence for this question. On the one hand, the model of punctuated equilibrium suggests that optimism suggest optimism that change can happen. And so there may be opportunities for thoughtful actors to engage with policy processes. But on the other hand, a lot of the change seems to be, as you say, dependent on these complex or difficult to control factors, such as into committee competition within Congress, media, attention, media tone, and sometimes the party that's in power. And yeah, additionally, you know, that social movement mobilization often encourages counter mobilization. That's something we've discussed in this episode as well, and that reversals are not only possible, but to be expected. So do you have any thoughts? Yeah. I mean, obviously it's a massive question we could keep discussing for a long time, but do you have any quick overview thoughts on what, anything that your research brings that question of how tractable changing the course of history is?
Well, when you say history, you know, it makes people think about, you're talking about overturning entire political systems are causing the Roman empire to collapse or something like that. But history comes in many shapes and sizes. And the scope of what we're talking about for the most part is a, is a, uh, a particular policy question or a particular industry or sector of the economy and how it does its business. And I think, you know, transformations occur all the time. And so I, I do believe that change is possible, but it's not inevitable. And there's no surefire mechanism, uh, that will guarantee you the ability to change because, you know, it could be that a well meaning group of actors might simply be wrong in their estimate of how much public support they have, or that could be wrong in their estimate of what the other side, who opposes them, we'll be able to use this, their own arguments.
And I think it's hard for us all as to kind of do opposition research and understand, you know, what's the best thing that the other side will throw at us and how will we respond to that? I don't think we're, most of us are very good at that, but it's an important thing to, to think through. So I mean, our answer from the research that I've done with so many colleagues is public policies do change. So that's an optimistic thing, but it's not inevitable that they will change. And certainly, and also you have to have a very long time perspective. It can be quite discouraging. You think about the policy changes that we've been discussing, for example, smoking tobacco, you know, that was a long drawn out battle. And the tobacco industry for so many years and centuries even was culturally dominant. And then today it's a, you know, it's a, I don't to say that it's disappeared, but it's a shadow of its former self.
At Sentience Institute a lot of our work is focused on the dynamics of social change in the United States, as with case studies I've done of the US antiabortion movement case study of the US anti-death penalty movement and review of literature. And whether the US Supreme court is a driver of social change or driven by it. And there's some reasons for this, but it's also vitally important that we think about change internationally too. And my impression is that this is a change in, in how you've thought about these questions as well, sort of starting with the US case and expanding outwards. In an article you wrote a decade and a half ago, you noted that, "studying agenda setting and policy dynamics in a well established is, is a well established research area. However, the research tradition has been strongly dominated by studies of the US." Since then, you've done quite a lot of work on comparing the policy-making process across different countries. For example, you're a co-editor of a book in 2019 called Comparative Policy Agendas. What's the overview of that book and what do you think of some of the key insights from it?
Well, you know, it's been really interesting, actually, I have to correct you on one thing which I'm so surprised because you're so well-researched; my first book and my dissertation was about agenda setting and French politics. And so I wrote that book and no one ever read it, um, because, uh, it was about a different country. And since I'm a professor in the United States, I realized with Agendas and Instability being my second book, and it has a lot of similar ideas, but a very different research design, uh, that, that, uh, generated a much bigger audience. So then I started focusing more on the United States, but I've always been interested in other countries. Uh, so one of the things that was so interesting and the reception to agendas and instability was a lot of our European collaborators are now collaborators, but at the time just people we knew said, well, that's a very interesting study of American politics, but it would never apply to our country because we don't have, you know, federalism separation of powers, weak political parties.
The structure is so chaotic and the American system with these multiple venues of power, that it would never apply to a Westminster parliamentary system or a system that didn't have federalism. And I was skeptical about that because I thought that really what we're talking about is framing and social understanding of underlying issues and the, how the complex public policy debates get simplified in politics and how that's unstable. And that would have to be the same in any political system. So we really have been active since about 2005 in expanding and creating a network of collaborators. Who've developed databases about policy activities in their countries. So now we've got that together for 25 countries with policy agendas, projects active in their countries at various stages of completion. Most of those have been to European collaborators, but it's expanding to Brazil and Latin America, Hong Kong from Asian collaborators. So it's been really exciting and gratifying to see that. And I think we've seen a lot more similarity than difference overall.
I had noticed that you'd done some work on France and Spain in particular. Do you have any general comments on the main similarities and differences that you see in, in each of those countries or Europe more widely?
Well, the differences are institutional differences and also in the structure of the political party systems, the larger scope of American politics, the geographical differences in American politics compared to, um, you know, other countries where there are much more nationalized, um, party systems. Um, also the media environment is very different and much more politicized, and that is partisan and different countries. Um, but the things that are so SIM and also, I would have to say the executive branch inserts so much more control over the legislative branch and most countries, um, that it's not, uh, you know, like in the United States with coequal branches of government. Uh, so that allows the legislative, um, the executive branch really to dominate the legislative branch in terms of consideration of bills and really to dominating or determining the agenda of politics. So those are the biggest differences. The biggest similarities though, I think are much more consequential.
And those similarities are that every political system deals with an overwhelming crush of unpredictable policy problems that have to be addressed once you're in office. And those policy problems can be of your own creation. That is they can be endogenous to your countries, uh, institutions and structures, or they can be thrown on you from the outside, such as an economic crisis or an environmental catastrophe, or a national security concern that comes from the outside. And so all the countries that we've studied have this characteristic of, um, punctuated waves of attention to particular issues, and some of those issues are thrown onto the agenda by exogenous shocks. And some of those issues are thrown onto the agenda by endogenous social movements and the political workings of actors trying to promote a particular policy change. We also found a really interesting process by which, and here I would credit my colleague, Christopher Green Peterson and, and, uh, Peter Mortenson at the university of Aarhus in Denmark.
They, um, targeted the question of, uh, well, what do you do in a parliamentary system when you're in the opposition? And so they focused their study on the use of parliamentary question time and Denmark, but, and since then they've expanded the study into many other countries. Um, and they found that the, the government and any parliamentary system has to respond to the full range of issues that hit the agenda. The parliamentary opposition though, can pick and choose the issues that are the most embarrassing for the government. And they could force the government and parliamentary question time, which is usually covered substantially in the media, to force the government, to talk about those issues that the government would prefer to ignore because they don't make the government look good. And so that's really an important, uh, aspect of, uh, of the role of a parliamentary opposition party, even in a system where they have very little lawmaking possibilities, that is the minority party, uh, outside of the US Congress setting, you know, will have no chance to pass a law because the party discipline is too great and the government party usually controls the agenda. But even in spite of that, uh, institutional limitation on their power, those, uh, parliamentary oppositions can have a dramatic impact and still change the course of public policy.
Interesting. So it's, the power levels are similar, just the mechanisms through which that is achieved that you perceive as being different?
Yeah, the mechanisms are quite different. And I think, I think the, uh, the minority party in the United States is typically more powerful, uh, than those in a parliamentary system, because in a parliamentary system, they have, they, they still do have limited power, but it's not, it's not a zero. And so I think we had a good corrective by looking at the dynamics of policy attention and the incentives of the government parties versus the opposition parties. And I think, you know, it would be a lot more fun to be in the opposition than to be in government because in government you're responsible for responding to the full range of all the issues that are affecting country, which is, which is as it should be. But, you know, you have responsibilities, you have to must, there's no option to ignore an issue for too long. You'd have to address it.
Yeah, sure. I guess I intuitively I'd expect there to be quite a few similarities between the US and Europe. Uh, and you mentioned that you started to, to look more widely to Asia and elsewhere. Do you have any well, to what extent did the theories that we've been discussing hold in those countries as well with what you've seen so far and are there more notable differences there?
One of the biggest things that came up in the creation of the policy, the comparative agendas project was, uh, a set of, uh, indicators of, um, government budgets. And then we started to look at the patterns of spending change, and we noticed these, um, very shocking, very distinctive patterns where the vast majority of, uh, spending is almost identical to the spending in the previous year. So there's a very great deal of incrementalism. However, there was also a lot of dramatic shifting of budget priorities, a lot of movement of money through large spending changes into a small number of spending categories every year. So we found that kind of schizophrenia pattern of policy change as measured by budget changes, which is the vast majority of the changes are quite small, but a significant share quite substantial. And we found very little budget changes in the medium to moderate, kind of what you'd think of as incremental, gradual shifting of budgets.
And we developed, you know, a theory about that. And it really has been used by me and others. That's one of the primary validations of the concept of punctuated equilibrium, because it shows across entire budget systems for an entire country over many years, that the pattern is either nothing or a whole lot, the patterns of policy change are either very, very limited or quite dramatic. So anyway, we measure this issue and we can develop a statistical score for any government system, which indicates the degree to which it corresponds to these, uh, occasional large outlier patterns and spending the statistical measure for that is called kurtosis. And then we can compare the kurtosis levels for different types of governments. And we found that dictators as compared to democracies have even higher levels of kurtosis and a measure of kurtosis is basically a measure of inefficiency. If a system were able to respond immediately and proportionately to the shifting concerns and priorities of the public or the social system or the economic needs of the country, you would expect the budget to change in a way that would be relatively similar to a bell curve.
There would be some moderate changes, some bigger changes, lots of changes around, you know, uh, small changes. Uh, but it would look relatively speaking like a bell curve, and that would indicate no institutional friction, no delay, no misunderstanding of how severe a problem is. And every time there was a problem, there would be a appropriate and proportionate response to that problem, as much as by the budget, of course, that doesn't happen in any country. We've never seen anything that even vaguely approaches such a pattern, but we can tell the degree to which two different political systems differ from that ideal. And it turns out that democratic systems are a little bit closer to that ideal. And we think that that is because of, um, greater capacity to gather information. And we laid that out against the rival hypothesis, which would be that the dictator or the autocrat would have a greater capacity to implement change.
And so we laid it out as a kind of empirical puzzle to know which is greater, the more informational, greater informational openness of a democratic system with open media system and social moments that can bring attention to incipient social problems. Uh, and yet within a democratic system, usually there's some, uh, institutional barriers to change. There's shared power. There's no single, um, decision-maker who gets to unilaterally set the budget change and has to be negotiated. And so on the one hand for the democratic system, there is a positive score for institutional openness and maybe a negative score for the capacity to make dramatic change. And then it's the opposite, I think, in an autocratic system or a dictatorship. And so, which is more powerful. And it turns out that statistically speaking, we find an advantage to the democratic systems. So that was, I thought very interesting. And we looked at that in Brazil and Hungary, and a number of Hong Kong, a number of countries that were before and after democratic transitions. And we found that there was a more efficient allocation of the national budget and systems that were more democratic.
Yeah, that's really fascinating, which a paper or book was that in, if people wanted to look it up for more detail?
We looked at that in a number of papers, but one of them is published in the journal of European public policy, I think in 2017 or 2016.
Great. Thanks. Okay. I wanted you to speak at least briefly about individual career paths and also what your work might imply for that. So, yeah, you've, you've studied and written about policy dynamics in general, and about lobbying specifically. An individual, hoping to make a positive change in the world, could choose to focus their career on, on policy roles like in the executive branch, in the US where people are kind of bureaucrats implement, implementing, and sometimes fleshing out the details of policies made by others. They could focus on more political roles such as sport work politicians, or they could focus on lobbying roles in nonprofits. Do you have any broad thoughts about the pros and cons of those different career paths from the perspective of somebody trying to maximize or increase their positive social impact?
You're saying it could be a kind of a staffer to a elected official, or you could be a lobbyist where you could be, uh, someone in the executive branch of government. I feel like, um, you could be in so many different roles as long as you're in the policy squirrel, so to speak, uh, you'll be a part of a professional community of people who's promoting ideas and understandings of issues. And I think the key is to be smart enough and able enough to step back from accepting the sort of parameters that are given to you in that policy world, whatever it might be and try to see if there's ways to promote, um, increased attention to under-attended aspects of the complicated policies. So I feel like you can do that from any position in the system, but the key to success and influence is to promote increased attention to an aspect of the problem or policy that's gotten, that's been getting, um, less than its deserved amount of attention.
Great. Yeah, really interesting. And actually, I, that was definitely something I picked up from your book on lobbying was the importance of governmental actors and the rarity of, of actually having funding neutral governmental actors. So they tend to be advocates themselves. And so, yeah. Interesting that your initial response is that the precise position you occupy within that sort of policy swell as you put it doesn't actually necessarily make too much difference. Is that, is that a fair characterization?
Absolutely. I think you could make change from anywhere. I think there are some different ways you might be involved, but I think the key issue in changes, um, promoting attention to certain underlying aspects of the issue.
Great. Any other thoughts on what makes a great policy advocate?
Knowledge of their case and the ability to be persuasive, you know, to develop arguments and to be able to speak to people who disagree with you to undercut them by a new argument that the transversal to the dominant way of talking about the issue. And I think that's a longterm thing. It's something where you have a lot of failure and you have to have a, a willingness to fight the long game. But when you think about the big policy changes that have come they've come, because somebody has transformed the understanding of the underlying issue.
Sure. Your website has a whole list of teaching materials and resources for students related to the courses that you teach, uh, including on framing public policies, race, innocence and the end of the death penalty, and other topics. Is there anything from there or any other particular resources that you can think of that you'd recommend, especially to someone interested in learning how to lobby effectively positives, social change?
Well, I do teach a class on framing, um, public policies, and I feel like a lot of the issues they are really interesting. Um, and I have, uh, incorporated into my teaching webpages, um, a lot of the PDFs or the articles themselves, and I, I do think that there's so much interesting psychological literature about what causes people to be mobilized or what causes people to have a sense of anxiety or anger or frustration or enthusiasm. So these positive and negative emotions that we try to elicit and policy argumentation. I think that's a really interesting set of issues. So one is to understand the psychology and the emotional response with people to new information. And there's a certain amount of reading that I have, you know, made available, available to my students about that. Another set of issues is the literature about cascades and, uh, complexity as they relate to the social network nature of, uh, political communication.
And so I think that's something that a lot of people overlook, um, and they don't pay sufficient attention to those, those questions of, uh, information cascades. And, you know, I think political science was embarrassed collectively by its failure to understand the likelihood of the collapse with the pro wall. And when people went to understand that they understood, they really focused on these issues of, uh, information cascades and how people follow, uh, the people around them. And when you think about, uh, those types of, uh, tight social networks and how people are embedded in social networks, it forces us to change our understanding of the nature of the political activity by individuals, away from a sort of, uh, each person is an Island perspective, uh, to a perspective that really puts at the center, the social network aspect of policy change and policy attitudes and those, uh, those models that incorporate complexity and social networks and embeddedness and, and complex networks behave very differently than the, the models of political change and attitude change that focus just on an individual. So I think those are two things I would point to
Great. And I wanted to speak briefly about your own career and trajectory as well. I noticed that in 2018, you published a book called Suspect Citizens: What 20 Million Traffic Stops Tells Us About Policing and Race. And your website summarizes the focuses of the book as being: "Throughout the war on crime. Police agencies have used traffic stops to search drivers, suspected of carrying contraband. However, middle class white Americans were largely exempt from its consequences." Findings from the book include that black people are 95% more likely to be stopped than white people, once differences and driving habits are taken into account. And that among those stops, black people are 115% more likely to be searched. Would you say that these sorts of statistical studies of criminal justice issues have become your focus recently?
Well, definitely most recently I've, well, I would say over my career, I have added more research interests without ever losing the old ones. So it's almost like my, my life just gets academically more and more complicated and I'm juggling more and more balls in the air simultaneously. You know, when I wrote the book about framing the death penalty, uh, I, I hadn't written a book length study of anything related to criminal justice before then. And it was really quite shocking and disturbing to get into that world of criminal justice because it's really quite ugly. And so world of poverty and lack of resources and, um, race and gender identity factors just come into play. So egregious so strongly compared to other areas where I didn't see those quite so strongly. And so anyway, I got to North Carolina and, um, began teaching a course about the death penalty.
And I wrote another book about the death penalty, which was not just focused on the question of framing, but more, um, a broader consideration of the death penalty. And then, um, I got involved in this analysis of the huge database on traffic stops that nobody had ever analyzed. And that probably more than any other book I've written has pushed me into the media and to the real policy debates and in real time, like right now playing out. And so it's been quite interesting and very exciting. And, um, I'm able to bring my expertise as a statistically oriented scholar to test some hypotheses and show that, you know, some of the things that people are complaining about, they have very good reason to complain. So it has been, I think, a bit of a change. My research in the past have been much more basic, uh, basic science without the obvious implication for current controversies. And then certainly this work on the death penalty brought me into some very big controversies. And then the work about racial profiling and traffic stops has put me at the middle of some really big, you know, public policy issues right now.
Yeah, really interesting. Your website as well, notes that your spouse, Jennifer Thompson is the co author of a book called Picking Cotton and is an advocate for judicial reform, the rights and needs of crime victims and surviving family members, increasing awareness about sexual violence and the elimination of the death penalty, you yourself are a founding member of the board of directors and on the board of directors of healing justice, which is an organization that Jennifer created 2015, would you consider yourself an advocate?
Well, I, no, I wouldn't. I wouldn't consider myself an advocate professionally. I think that all of us, I think the best contribution that I can make as a scholar is to do my research, uh, as best I can and to it, to bear on an important policy issues and then let other people interpret. But I mean, when you do research on racial profiling and you find that there is racial profiling and you go on TV and say, so in front of the police chief, I guess, you know, people would say that that's advocacy, but to me, it's simply reporting the results of, you know, what I know to be true from my studies. So certainly, you know, I want my career to have an impact, um, public policy. You can't study public policy without wanting to, uh, affect it. Well, maybe you can, I guess, depending on what policies you're studying, but certainly for me, I mean, I think of myself mostly as a basic scientist, someone interested in underlying causes and how the system works, but I also can't stop myself from recognizing that there's some serious injustices.
And so if I can bring my research skills to bear to address some of those, I'm happy to do that. But, you know, I don't think of myself as a hack. I don't take any money from any, uh, legal consulting than I do, you know? And so I, you know, I occasionally write reports for attorneys concerned about particular social or criminal cases. For example, I've been involved in, uh, the analysis of the statistical disparities across race and North Carolina's, um, felon, disenfranchisement policies, where in North Carolina, as the many States, uh, felons are disenfranchised, but even after they complete their prison term, they don't regain the right to vote until after they complete their probation and also pay their fines. And there's a lawsuit against the state about this. And I was asked if I could do some statistical analysis just to document the extent of the disparities. And so, you know, I, I feel like I could help sometimes with analysis like that, but I don't take money for those kinds of things. I'm already a public employee at a major state university. So I feel like that's just part of my job.
Hmm. Yeah. Sure. And from that perspective of your interest in having an impact on policy, which do you think is high priority strategic research to improve the effectiveness of policy advocates or social movements versus more concrete research that is used in advocacy itself, such as to persuade legislators, legislators of the seriousness of an issue?
Well, I'm a both end kind of person. And so I just feel like the world is big and our advocacy communities need to be big and they have to simultaneously be able to play the long game. And also the shorter game, maybe the same person won't do both those things. I know that I feel like I'm better at the long game than at the short game, but somebody needs to be working on, on both parts of, I would say that the long game is gonna be the one that has the bigger potential for dramatic success. Um, but you know, they wrote a budget every year and we need to be involved in those grinding negotiations on, um, you know, week by week basis. So people have to be present at the table, but where do the big changes come from? I think they come from a combination of being present at the table and also having a strategic longterm view about what new cultural understanding really has to take place before we can see anything more than a marginal change in policy outcomes.
Yeah. Something you mentioned there with being able to bring your sorts of statistical perspective to bear. I, I think of your work as being fairly relentlessly empirical rather than focusing on theory too much, which is fairly similar to sentences use approach in some ways. So, yeah. Do you agree with that characterization of your work and also to what extent do you think that that has helped or hindered your academic career?
Well, I mean, I think developing the punctuated equilibrium perspective on things has been a big theoretical contribution in political science. And I'm very proud of that, but I also feel like I, I, I'm not comfortable simply sitting in an armchair coming up with a new theory without documenting it and all of my training and instincts as a scholar have to do with counting things, you know, just go out and see what is the world actually doing first. And then let's see if we can develop a theory that explains why it's doing what we observe. So I am a very much an empiricist and it has led me to be doing, to do a lot of statistical work, but I think, you know, if I had been doing more qualitative work, it would still be empirical in the sense that my goal would be to observe what is actually happening out there in the world and then come up with a theory to understand it. So, yeah, I mean, I'm not definitely not an armchair type of theorist, but I don't want to share the, the idea that I, you know, I've come up with some important theoretical ideas over the years.
Yeah, yeah, definitely. So for all the books that we've been speaking about today, you've worked in collaboration with a number of other academics and also had support from a number of graduate students and even undergraduates in particular, you've coauthored a lot of work with Bryan Jones at the university of Texas at Austin. In contrast, most of my personal research projects are highly independent and I, I kind of struggle to imagine collaborative projects that don't end up with a lot of duplication of effort. I'm just wondering if you've got any tips for how to work collaboratively efficiently.
Uh, yeah, I feel like it's not that much duplication as it is. Um, complimentary, you know, um, efforts. Uh, so like, uh, Bryan and I have been working for over 30 years together and I think we have a fantastic, uh, ability to see eye to eye and to understand the way the other person is thinking. But also I think we have different writing styles when I think that combination is better than the sum of the individual parts, how at least I hope, you know, I like to think so. And certainly we've continued to work together because we worked together so well and it's so easy to do so. So I feel like we can put together teams. And oftentimes the other thing besides my work with Bryan -- and sometimes with Bryan -- one of the things that I've tried to do quite explicitly in my career is, uh, avoid the model of the lone scholar working by himself.
And I feel like one of the things that we've been able to do is put together some really large research teams that I think of as kind of a equivalent to, you know, how astronomers might work or how people work in a chemistry lab or how people do things in other areas of scientific inquiry, political science, sociology, uh, I think many of us have been trained to think that, you know, we should be Emile Durkheim, and we should simply come up with theories and sit and, you know, document those theories based on, um, our, our own efforts as individuals. And I think when, think about how do they work in astronomy, they need billions of dollars of government money. They, they have to build these huge telescopes and then everybody shares those resources. And I think when you think about, uh, other areas of scientific research like physics and others, it's just a different model and they've had some great success. Um, and so I think there's a limitation to the single scholar working alone that, uh, that's worth thinking about.
There are 391 different items listed on your Google scholar page with nearly 29,000 citations in total. So I'm wondering if you have any other particular tips on general researcher productivity?
Uh, well, I mean, I just love what I do. And so I, I feel like it's a privilege to keep being able to collaborate with people. And I don't have any particular tips about it other than if you love what you do, just keep doing it.
Okay, cool. You do, you do have a section on your website actually though, dedicated to tips and pointers for graduate students and other researchers, which I would obviously encourage anyone looking at PhDs in political science to check out. Could you give a potted summary of some of your top tips or considerations and advice that you think is often neglected by students and applicants?
Well, I, I actually have to say that when I was in graduate school, I had stayed at the same university where I had done my undergraduate degree. And I had had a fantastic set of mentors as an undergraduate student. And then during my graduate, during my time in graduate school. And I realized only later that other people didn't have that. And I think it had to do partly with my identity as a white male and I fit in hand and glove a very easily. This was back in the 1980s with the faculty members at my university who were fantastic. But I found out later that many of my colleagues be they female or African American or Latino, or if they were in any way, maybe just by their personality, not as outgoing or they didn't get that mentoring that I had gotten. And so they didn't understand how to write a book proposal.
They didn't know how to write a grant proposal. They hadn't had the experience of having an article rejected and understanding that so had everybody else had their articles rejected. And so I decided to put together some examples of things that I have benefited that I know I was relatively fortunate to get that good mentoring and graduate school. So I've always understood kind of, I feel like how the profession works, how the hiring process works, how we get our articles accepted, how to draft an article, how to understand the sometimes meanness of anonymous reviewers and not let it get to you. So a lot of those things I was asked over the years to help other people understand them. And I realized that there's a big need out there for, um, just professional socialization. And I would say it's really terrible that our, my colleagues in the profession don't always provide that mentoring to every graduate student comes along. It really is fundamental, but some people fall through the cracks.
Yeah, really interesting. The idea of both the importance of mentoring and the, the way as you say, people fall through the cracks is actually was, was one of the key sort of recommendations from a research project that Kelly Anthis, one of our co-founders, did in 2018 called Effective Strategies for Equity and Inclusion was this idea of, of mentorship. She wrote that leaders and managers should mentor people from underrepresented groups and should go beyond that to sponsor them. I advocate for them, for instance, by offering them connections, recommendations, and other resources beyond training as being one of a sort of evidence backed way to address diversity equity and inclusion issues. So yeah, really interesting there.
But it's, it's absolutely my experience as a heterosexual white male that I, I just had things given to me. And, um, I know many of my colleagues disagree with that because they don't want to think that anything ever came to them. And I can tell you that I work hard, but you know, so do many other people, but I can also recognize that I have had many opportunities made available to me -- and I'm grateful for that -- but I think we have to really be intentional and making sure that those opportunities are given to every, younger person coming along without regard to their race and gender and gender identity or anything about their identity. And I think we've failed partly because at least in the academic community, the mentors don't reflect the mentees in terms of our identities. There's a lag. So we really have to be intentional about, um, doing a much better job about that.
Yeah. I'll echo everything you just said. Really. Okay. Well, I don't want to take too much of your time. I really appreciate you joining us on the podcast. So yeah. Thanks very much for joining us, Frank.
Okay. Well, it's a pleasure. I've never had such a detailed conversation about so much of my research and it's been a real joy to talk with you.
Great. Thank you so much. Any last recommendations for resources or ways people can engage with your work for listeners?
Uh, no, nothing, I think we've covered so much of it that, um, people should be able to find me on the web and, um, you know, contact me if they have questions.
Perfect. Alright, thanks again.
Okay. Thank you.
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