John Kingdon Theories

John Kingdon Theories

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John Kingdon Theories

John identifies three streams of problems, politics and policy when dealing with the agenda setting. He argues that these three streams converge to create a window of opportunity which makes it possible for an issue to move onto the policy setting agenda. A good example where this theory of John Kingdon worked was seen was during 1999 when the policy setting agenda which included President Bill Clinton’s class size reduction policy even though there were conflicts over the policy and the inaction which was being experienced at the federal level. It can be seen through this that a change in the political stream led to the creation of a window of opportunity. This opportunity allowed the class size reduction to arrive on the agenda.

The three policy streams mentioned above have the following roles.

Problem: this refers to the process which involves persuading the policy decision makers to pay attention to one problem over the others. The chances of a policy proposal rising on the agenda are higher only if the problem is being perceived as being serious. This is only however determined by how the problem has been learnt or defined. Budget crisis can be the best example of problems because they will get recognition.

Proposals: this is the process through which the policy proposals are now generated, revised, debated as well as being adopted for consideration. Many proposals can be competing but to get a proposal shortlisted needs to use many tactics. The proposal should be feasible, reasonable as well as appealing to the public.

Politics: these are the political factors which influence the agenda. These changes can be the changes in elected offices, political climate or even mood. They at times also incorporate the voices of the advocacy of the opposition groups.

The three elements which have been mentioned operate independently even though the actors in each of them can always overlap. For there to be a successful agenda setting, at least two of the three elements must come together. This is the moment it is said a policy window is open. An example can be where advocates develop a policy proposal then wait for the right problem to come along. When this happens, they attach their proposal to it.


Federal Class Size Reduction Policy: A Case Study Testing John W. Kingdon’s Theory on Agenda Setting | Rohan | Policy Perspectives. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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