SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 1

This case study reports on research into the way that political parties are responding to the challenges of an ageing society. In methodological terms, it examined (1) the level of attention (or ‘issue salience’) given to public policy for older people (60+ years) in manifestos for Westminster and ‘devolved’ elections in the United Kingdom, 1945–2011, and (2) the language associated with such policy proposals (termed ‘policy framing’). This provides understanding of ‘party politicisation’ – or, how issues rise and fall on the political agenda as parties compete to get voters’ support. The approach discussed here is a type of interpretive policy analysis and allows researchers to identify and understand themes and language patterns. These can help us understand policy aims and how policy ideas are communicated in order to persuade, or engage with, particular audiences. Here, we reflect on the methodology’s strengths and limitations, as well as practical aspects of its application. Issue salience and policy framing in manifestos are extremely important because in a democracy they help determine which public policies are supported through a popular vote in elections – such that governments are given the opportunity to implement them, in turn, affecting everyone’s lives.