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Advancing the Advocacy Coalition Framework’s Theory and Methods on Major and Minor Policy Change

Policy Analysis
Public Administration
Public Policy
Policy Change
Policy-Making
Allegra Fullerton
University of Colorado Denver
Allegra Fullerton
University of Colorado Denver
Kayla Gabehart
University of Colorado Denver
Elizabeth Koebele
University of Nevada Reno
Daniel Nohrstedt
Uppsala Universitet
Tanya Heikkila
University of Colorado Denver

Abstract

Policy change is a primary focus of the Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF). In doing such research, the ACF helps researchers by distinguishing major and minor changes, with the former related to changes in the policy core attributes of a policy subsystem and the latter related to changes in the secondary attributes of a policy subsystem. Unfortunately, research on major and minor policy change has stagnated with little advancement since the ACF emerged about four decades ago. The reasons are several, including (1) confusion between formal changes in the language of a policy versus impacts; (2) conceptualizing and operationalizing major versus minor change; (3) the tendency to analyze single instances of policy change rather than policy change as relational to other policy changes in the policy subsystem evolution; and (4) theoretical obscurity in what explains major and minor change. This paper directly addresses these four reasons via novel theoretical and conceptual thinking and methods, including coding the content of policy based on ACF’s belief system components and offering a method for comparing policy change relationally (i.e., in what came before a new policy adoption). It applies this new thinking and methods to the study of the entire population of 77 instances of policy change in the four major policymaking venues in Colorado’s oil and gas policy subsystems from 2007 through 2017. The results push the ACF out of its stagnation towards new lines of research and theoretical advances.