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Performance information and issue prioritisation by political and managerial decision-makers: A discrete choice experiment

In this article, Joris van der Voet and Amandine Lerusse, explore the concept of issue prioritisation in public administration, specifically focusing on decision-making processes.

Joris van der Voet & Amandine Lerusse
29 April 2024
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Issue prioritisation is the first stage of attention-based theories of decision-making, but remains theoretically and empirically uncharted territory in public administration research. This article proposes a framework to understand how decision-makers prioritise issues, based on the characteristics of performance information they receive. These characteristics include the source (internal or external), nature (objective or subjective), aspiration level (historical, social, or coercive), and required cognitive effort (attention costs).

The study uses empirical data from a discrete choice experiment involving 2,313 local government officials to examine how these characteristics influence issue prioritisation decisions in the domains of road maintenance and primary school education. The findings suggest that decision-makers are more likely to prioritise issues signaled through objective performance measures and articulated relative to coercive aspirations. Moreover, the effects of information source and attention costs vary between policy domains.

Additionally, the study compares decision-making behaviours between political and managerial decision-makers, revealing differences in how they prioritise issues, particularly in relation to the articulation of objective performance information.

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