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Crisis exploitation: political and policy impacts of framing contests

Boin, A. and Hart, P. and McConnell, Allan (2009) Crisis exploitation: political and policy impacts of framing contests. Journal of European Public Policy, 16 (1). pp. 81-106. ISSN 1350-1763

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When societies are confronted with major, disruptive emergencies, the fate of politicians and public policies hangs in the balance. Both government actors and their critics will try to escape blame for their occurrence, consolidate/strengthen their political capital, and advance/defend the policies they stand for. Crises thus generate framing contests to interpret events, their causes, and the responsibilities and lessons involved in ways that suit their political purposes and visions of future policy directions. This article dissects these processes and articulates foundations for a theory of crisis exploitation. Drawing on 15 cases of crisis-induced framing contests, we identify potentially crucial factors that may explain both the political (effects on incumbent office-holders/institutions) and policy (effects on programs) impacts of crises.