The Dynamics of Policy Change

Christian, Breunig, Martin Elff, and Samuel G. Workman. 2016. “The Dynamics of Policy Change”. Presented at the European Political Science Association 6th Annual Conference, 23-25 June 2016, Square-Brussels Meeting Centre, Brussels.


This paper presents a dynamic measurement model for policy change for nine advanced democracies over 30 years (1983-2005). We utilize a multi-dimensional state-space model to recover the position and dimensionality of legislation. Our annual measure of policy change is the first measure using enacted legislation that was topic classified based on the substantive issue content of each law using the Comparative Agendas system. Our measurement model offers several advantages over existing measures of policy change, which are either policy-or country-specific or cover only a small time frame. Across countries, the structure underlying policy change is multi-dimensional and dynamic through time and changes in this structure lead to disjointedness in attention to specific issues in policy making. Our approach allows us to estimate shifts in issue alignments based on this structure, as well to as assess country and issue specific profiles with regard to the set of latent dimensions. Our new estimate of policy change has broad implications for the study of policy processes, partisan competition, and institutional dynamics. Our measure of policy change are made available for download.