There is a growing recognition that public policy controversies are driven more by value differences than by technical deficiencies. Unfortunately, we have yet to develop, test, and refine systematic approaches for understanding political systems. In this article I explain how the advocacy coalition framework (ACF) can be used as a theoretical basis for understanding political context via a stakeholder analysis. An ACF stakeholder analysis widens the attention of policy analysts toward subsystem-wide dynamics with multiple actors who are motivated by their beliefs, structure their relationships into advocacy coalitions, and try to influence policy through utilizing multiple resources and venues. I illustrate an ACF approach to stakeholder analysis in a scientifically contentious political conflict over the establishment of marine protected areas in California. I conclude with a summary of contributions to the ACF literature and the strengths and limitations of conducting an ACF stakeholder analysis.

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