Agenda setting during the Bristol mayoral election in 2016
: a multiple streams approach

  • Tessa J Coombes

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This study uses Kingdon’s multiple streams framework (MSF) to examine the local agenda setting process in Bristol during the election for a directly elected mayor in 2016. It uses housing policy as the basis for discussion and develops the MSF to provide an understanding of how mayoral candidates decide their priorities pre- and post-election.

The fieldwork for the research was based on an interpretive policy ethnography, utilising the opportunity to experience the election process from the perspective of those involved in it. A combination of methods for collecting data were used to study the process over a period of nine months, involving mayoral candidates and policy entrepreneurs. These included observation (practice), interviews (talk) and analysis of documentation (considered writing).

The research considered how a predictable window opened in the politics stream as the election began, and how the streams came together as party agendas were produced and diverged again once the election was over, as a new, smaller window opened before the new mayoral decision agenda was set. The research identifies how mayoral candidates operate across the streams, seeking ideas and solutions, from within and outside of the party system. It illustrates the strategies and tactics used by policy entrepreneurs to bring their issues to the attention of the candidates.

This research draws conclusions on who and what influences the agenda before, during and after an election and demonstrates the role local political parties and policy entrepreneurs play in party and decision agendas. It illustrates how coalitions and networks bring opportunities for greater influence to the individuals and groups involved in them. The research also demonstrates the benefit of bringing solutions alongside problems, as local actors display a willingness to work with the council to achieve more desirable outcomes in the delivery of affordable housing in Bristol.
Date of Award29 Sept 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorAlex D Marsh (Supervisor) & David W J Sweeting (Supervisor)


  • Public Policy
  • Governance
  • Agenda Setting

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