Schattschneider claims "At the root of all politics is the universal language of conflict." What he means is that politics is a competition for attention. Actors in the political arena each seek to further their own goals at the expense of opposing actors. Schattschneider claims that the audience is the determining factor in most political discussions, and that players will attempt to either socialize or privatize the conflict, depending on the mood of the audience, the nature of the conflict, and the needs of themselves. Because of the sheer volume of possible conflicts, people must prioritize those which they feel are the most important. Political combatants will try to push those issues which are high on their priority list to the front of the forum. By controlling which issues become salient enough to reach the arena of public debate, actors engage in agenda setting. Agenda setting takes place at many levels, but questions arise as to who has the power to set agendas, and how they do so. In an ideal democracy, the citizens would be the main pushers of given agendas, unfortunately, the public interests often lose out to the agendas of the policy and media elites. .
In the discipline of Political Science, many scholars have attempted to quantify and explain the "rules" of political agendas. As technology advances at ever increasing rates, these rules fluctuate and it seems as though none hold true in all circumstances. Case study upon case study are examined, with varying results, often leading students down paths of cynicism. The most common arguments focus on three principle areas of agenda setting. These three players are the policy elites, the media, and the public. All three attempt to use influence to obtain the sympathy of the others, yet all three can be said to also be in conflict with each other. In political debate, it is often the case that media and policy elites dominate the agenda.