Varieties of Policy Feedback Research: Looking Backward, Moving Forward

Daniel Béland, Edella Schlager

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Policy feedback refers to the variety of ways in which existing policies can shape key aspects of politics and policymaking. Originating in historical institutionalism, the study of policy feedback has expanded to address resource and interpretative effects on target populations and mass publics, the roles of policy elites, and how feedback effects are conditioned by policy designs and larger institutional contexts. Recently, more attention has also been paid to feedback effects that are not self-reinforcing in nature. This introduction provides a nonexhaustive review of the existing historical institutionalist literature on policy feedback as well as introducing the contributions to the special issue. The diversity of policy feedback scholarship is reflected in manuscripts building from the social constructions framework and the thermostatic model. Advances in research are captured in contributions empirically testing different forms of feedback, varied strategies of policy elites to shape feedback, and how context may suppress feedback effects. The special issue emphasizes critical, understudied dimensions shaping feedback processes, such as race, and the role of organizations. A major lacuna in policy feedback scholarship, the overwhelming emphasis on the United States, must be addressed through more comparative and international research including closer dialogs between U.S.-based and non-U.S. scholars.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)184-205
Number of pages22
JournalPolicy Studies Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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