Policy Maps and Political Feasibility

  • Peter J. May


Gauging the political feasibility of a policy proposal is a relevant aspect of policy analysis that has received lesser attention in advice about the craft of policy analysis. This chapter considers the use of a “policy map” to assess the political prospects of policy proposals. Just as a physical map lays out the contours of physical terrain, a policy map can be used to portray the lines of political support and opposition for a given proposal or set of proposals. Overlaying different features of competing policy proposals leads to a better understanding of the potential fate of the proposals and adjustments that may be required to improve the political prospects of a given proposal. These assessments can be undertaken prior to proposals entering into legislative debate and do not require inside knowledge of the positions of key legislators or other decision makers.

Given our limited understanding of policy windows and the idiosyncratic nature of policy enactment, one cannot expect to provide a precise recipe for analyzing political feasibility. The logic of this approach to policy maps and political feasibility assessments is disarmingly simple. The difficulties are that policy issues are never neatly identified, and identification of interest groups and their positions can be problematic. Interest groups change their views. The content of policy proposals is subject to change. Changing external conditions alter the sense of urgency attached to particular issues or policy proposals. All of this complicates the gathering and interpretation of political intelligence. The challenge for political analysts is to use such assessments to make informed judgments about political prospects of policy proposals and the likely dynamics of policy debates.


Interest groups policy analysis political feasibility 


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© Iris Geva-May 2005

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  • Peter J. May

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