Policy frames are understood as the outcome of a policy process in which multiple frames are contesting, but where one frame prevails and characterizes policies. Policy frames are therefore perceived and studied as coherent interpretations of a policy issue containing a problem definition and a matching strategy to solve it. This rather fixed understanding of policy frames contrasts with other interpretive approaches which recognize a more dynamic and sometimes ambiguous character of policy language. The aim of this article is to analyze whether policy frames may be ambiguous and if so, how this can be understood by the problem context and political context of the policy issue. This study conducts critical frame analysis of local migrant integration policies in Antwerp and Rotterdam over the past 15 years. The analysis demonstrates presence of frame ambiguity in this controversial policy domain in the form of incomplete frames, solely focusing on the policy strategy while leaving the problem definition open to interpretation, and inconsistent frames in which the problem definition and policy strategy do not match. Ambiguous frames indicate a ‘strength of weak frames’: in a context of problem complexity and political contestation ambiguous frames can serve to overcome a deadlock in policy-making.

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doi.org/10.1080/19460171.2016.1147365, hdl.handle.net/1765/82030
Critical Policy Studies
Department of Sociology

Dekker, R. (2017). Frame ambiguity in policy controversies: critical frame analysis of migrant integration policies in Antwerp and Rotterdam. Critical Policy Studies, 11(2), 127–145. doi:10.1080/19460171.2016.1147365