Positivist Beliefs among Policy Professionals: An Empirical Investigation

Document Type


Publication Date



A group of scholars argue that mainstream policy analysis is positivistic in its theory and practice. This paper reports the results of an e-mail survey that was conducted to investigate the extent, dimensions, and determinants of positivist beliefs among policy professionals. The survey results show that policy professionals are more positivistic in their abstract beliefs and less so in their beliefs about the role of politics and analysis in the policy process. Educational background is the most important factor determining beliefs: The economists and mathematicians/scientists are most positivistic in their beliefs, while political scientists are least positivistic. Also, practitioners take more positivistic positions than academics. Overall, the largest percentage of the respondents see the postpositivist 'facilitator' role as the proper role for policy analysts,but there is also a significant percentage of those who prefer the positivist 'problem solver' role.