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A Narrative Policy Framework: Clear Enough to Be Wrong?


Michael D. Jones is a currently doctoral candidate at the University of Oklahoma. Starting in fall 2010, he will begin a post doc appointment at the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics at Harvard University. His research focuses on theories of the policy process, public opinion, and environmental policy.
Mark K. McBeth is a professor of Political Science at Idaho State University. His research focuses on theories of the policy process, interest groups, and environmental policy.


Narratives are increasingly subject to empirical study in a wide variety of disciplines. However, in public policy, narratives are thought of almost exclusively as a poststructural concept outside the realm of empirical study. In this paper, after reviewing the major literature on narratives, we argue that policy narratives can be studied using systematic empirical approaches and introduce a “Narrative Policy Framework” (NPF) for elaboration and empirical testing. The NPF defines narrative structure and narrative content. We then discuss narrative at the micro level of analysis and examine how narratives impact individual attitudes and hence aggregate public opinion. Similarly, we examine strategies for the studying of group and elite behavior using the NPF. We conclude with seven hypotheses for researchers interested in elaborating the framework.