Policy making is critical to the democratic process, as it determines which issues are put before the public and the media, and which issues will gain attention and possibly result in new legislation. Elite theory is the idea that a relatively thin slice of the population, including top politicians, media figures, and figures in industry, among others, set the agenda for policy making in the country.
The elite has biases about their agendas. For example, industry figures tend to try to influence legislation and issues that affect business and the health of the economy. They have been critical, for example, in pushing forward agendas that lower corporate and personal taxes; their bias is not towards helping the poor or disadvantaged groups. In addition, many elites in business, government, and the media are men; therefore, women's issues, including women's health, have not traditionally been pushed to the forefront of the agenda (though, as more women enter politics and gain power in industry, this situation is changing).
While the elite has traditionally controlled agenda setting, disadvantaged groups can work together to participate in agenda setting, or determining the issues that will gain national attention. For example, the Black Lives Matter movement has pushed the issue of racial profiling and police brutality to the forefront of the public conscience, and looking at and reforming police brutality has, at different times and to different degrees, become part of the government's agenda on local, state, and federal levels.