Issue proximity and policy response in local governments

Sara Hughes, Runfola Daniel Miller, Ben Cormier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


The policy choices of local governments are highly relevant today, but we know relatively little about how or when local governments choose to respond to a given issue and why this might vary between policy areas. A key variant for local governments is the proximity of policy issues: they are engaged in solving local, regional, and global problems. Using evidence from the United States on the policy issues of social inclusion, watershed management, and climate change, we demonstrate that the drivers of policy response vary with the proximity of the problem. When an issue is highly local, policy response is influenced by problem severity; when an issue is global, policy response is influenced by local political leanings; and when an issue is regional, policy response is driven by the actions of neighboring and state level governments. Local governments consider different factors and respond to different questions when engaging with different types of policy issues. Our findings provide a more nuanced understanding of sustainability policy adoption in local governments, and further our understanding of the domain-contingent nature of policy response in local governments and the structuring role of problem proximity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)192-212
Number of pages21
JournalReview of Policy Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2018


  • climate policy
  • local governments
  • policy issues
  • sustainability policy
  • climate change
  • regional governance
  • environment
  • urban studies


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