Policy Images

… a core concept used in Policy Analysis and Process and Atlas101

Concept description

Leslie Pal (reference below, p. 125), drawing on Baumgartner and Jones, defines policy images as “a mixture of empirical information and emotive appeals that explain the issue and justify the public policy response.”

Pal writes (p. 105):

“Most of us, even in cases where we are quite interested in a given policy issue, will tend to summarize it in what Baumgartner and Jones (1993) call “policy images.” Policy images are a “mixture of empirical information and emotive appeals” that explain the issue and justify the public policy response (p. 26). Moreover, since these images are shorthand, they convey more than information; they give a sense of the tone of the issue in positive or negative terms. Baumgartner and Jones cite the changing tone in the policy image surrounding civilian nuclear power from a largely positive association with economic progress to a negative connotation linked to environmental damage. A policy issue may be framed in various images, depending on the interests and actors in the field. Stable policy fields tend to coalesce around one dominant policy image, and policy challenge and change is largely about mobilization through the “redefinition of the prevailing policy image” (p. 239).”

See also: Issue Framing.

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Problem Definition and Agenda Setting (core topic) in Policy Analysis and Process and Atlas101 Policy Analysis and Process.


Leslie Pal (2014), Beyond Policy Analysis – Public Issue Management in Turbulent Times, Fifth Edition, Nelson Education, Toronto. See Beyond Policy Analysis – Book Highlights.

Baumgartner, F. R., & Jones, B. D. (1993). Agendas and instability in American politics. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 31 March 2017.

Image: Romolo Tavani / Fotolia, European Parliamentary Research Service Blog, at https://epthinktank.eu/2015/07/02/developments-in-international-climate-policy/, accessed 31 March 2017.