The Aarhus Research Group on Local Policy Agendas

Publications, codebooks and data for download

The Aarhus Research Group on Local Policy Agendas uses agenda items on the council meetings in the 98 Danish municipalities to address major research questions in political science. We have collected a database covering 10,000 council meeting agendas in the 98 Danish municipalities since the major organizational reform in 2007 which formed the 98 municipalities. In the database, we classify each agenda item – about 250,000 in total – on the agenda in the council meetings using a codebook consisting of 189 issue categories. This allows us to track over time and across municipalities if, for instance, the issue of climate changes has entered the local agenda and to what extend underperforming schools draw the attention of local politicians. This data provides a unique laboratory to rigorously test major research questions in political science. 

The Aarhus Research Group on Local Policy Agendas is part of the Comparative Agendas Project (CAP). This is a vibrant international research network of scholars from around the world who share an interest in empirically tracking and analyzing policy agendas.

The next step in our research agenda is to dig deeper into our data in order to contribute to ongoing scholarly debates in political science. Moreover, we have initiated a joint research project with Norwegian colleagues to collect a dataset on Norwegian municipal council agendas. This will allow the first set of comparative analysis of local policy agendas.

The first take on our research agenda has been collected in our book on Palgrave MacMillan:

Explaining Local Policy Agendas. Institutions, Problems, Elections and Actors

By Peter B. Mortensen, Matt W. Loftis, and Henrik B. Seeberg


Building on hundreds of thousands of systematically collected and content-coded local policy agenda observations, this book examines – theoretically and empirically – the policy agenda effects of four central aspects of any political system: the institutions that structure politics; the problems confronting the political system; the occurrence of regular elections; and the actors navigating the political system.


“This is the first large scale empirical test of a theory of what determines the content of the governmental agenda. With hundreds of governments to compare, the authors have a unique opportunity to explore the determinants of government attention, not just to describe it. The results should be of interest to a wide range of scholars. Anyone who wants to know why governments do what they do should read this book.”

— Frank R. Baumgartner, Richard J. Richardson Distinguished Professor of Political Science, UNC at Chapel Hill

“Peter B. Mortensen, Matt W. Loftis, and Henrik B. Seeberg have written an important book, both for the study of policy agendas and for local politics. The subnational case study fills a crucial gap in our understanding of the world of agenda-setting behind national politics. It also provides a unique set of data to test out classic questions in urban politics and policy.”

—Peter John, Professor of Public Policy, King’s College London

“This inspiring book investigates classic questions in political science by means of innovative analyses of local government agendas. The book is essential reading for local government students and scholars. It provides important knowledge about how political systems at the local level work, and the rigorous analyses profoundly demonstrate how local level institutions and politics can and should be studied.”

—Signy Irene Vabo, Professor of Political Science, University of Oslo

Find out more and buy the book on Palgrave MacMillan's website.

Media coverage

Our book has received considerable media attention in Denmark, and we include some of these articles and interviews in the following for those capable of reading Danish.