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Coalitions, Science, and Belief Change: Comparing Adversarial and Collaborative Policy Subsystems



Arguments for collaborative rather than adversarial approaches to governance rest partly on two axioms: first, that collaborative approaches mitigate conflict to intermediate levels and second, that collaborative approaches help integrate science and values through various joint fact-finding strategies. Using questionnaire data in 1984 and 2001 of policy participants involved in Lake Tahoe water quality policy, this article investigates whether a shift from an adversarial to a collaborative policy subsystem is associated with (i) convergence in beliefs regarding water quality problems and policy proposals; and (ii) an increase in the use of science-based empirical beliefs and a decrease in the use of normative beliefs in supporting policy proposals. The findings send a mixed message to policymakers and researchers about science and collaboration. The analysis suggests that collaborative policy subsystems are associated with convergence in some beliefs between rival coalitions, but it also suggests that policy participants are no more likely to rely on science-based, empirical beliefs in collaborative than in adversarial policy subsystems.