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Explaining the “ebb and flow” of the problem stream: frame conflicts over the future of coal seam gas (“fracking”) in Australia

  • Paul Fawcett (a1), Michael J. Jensen (a1), Hedda Ransan-Cooper (a2) and Sonya Duus (a1)

Why do issues “fade” from the problem stream? This is an important but underresearched question, which this article examines by looking at the dynamic interaction between frames and frame sponsors. We develop a novel methodological approach that combines algorithmic coding (topic modelling) with hand-coding to track changes in the presence of frames and frame sponsors during periods of intense problematisation (“problem windows”) both within continuous contexts and diachronically across different contexts. We apply this approach empirically in a corpus of newspaper articles that pertain to the coal seam gas controversy in Australia – a divisive policy issue where frame conflicts are common. We find that elite actors have a particularly decisive impact on the problem stream in terms of both the evolution and duration of debate. Further, problem windows close in response to three different mechanisms: elite frame convergence; public statements (by government and industry); and elections.

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