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The composition of policy change: comparing Colorado’s 1977 and 2006 smoking bans


Understanding policy change is among the most enduring pursuits of public policy studies. Despite the wealth of policy change literature, a central challenge in the study of policy change remains measuring and assessing change. A useful starting point in measuring and assessing policy change is a thorough analysis of policy composition. The textual composition of policy change is analyzed by drawing on the Institutional Analysis and Development framework for conceptual definitions and data collection methods. Lessons from the policy implementation, design, and tools’ literatures guide comparative data analysis and evaluation. The approach is illustrated through a study of smoking ban change in Colorado, USA. The conclusion discusses the methodological contribution offered in this paper and its potential for facilitating theoretical development.

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Fig. 1
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  1. Most of the statements from this analysis follow a regulatory syntax with the five identified components. Some statements follow a different syntax referred to as “constitutive” (D’Andrade 1984; Searle 1969). See Appendix 1 for more detail regarding regulatory and constitutive statements.

  2. Prior to 1981, a number of Surgeon General Reports drew a correlation between secondhand smoke exposure and respiratory issues in infants and children, but not in adults (USDHHS 1993).

  3. See list of city ordinances strengthening the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act at Accessed April 4, 2013.


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Correspondence to Christopher M. Weible.


Appendix 1: Coding guidelines

The procedures are inspired by the IAD framework (Crawford and Ostrom 1995, 2005; Basurto et al. 2010; Siddiki et al. 2011, 2012; Kiser and Ostrom 1982; Ostrom 1986, 2005).

  1. 1.

    Identify institutional statements

    1. (a)

      Identify all definitions, titles, preambles, and headings Titles and headings are first identified because they are fairly easy to locate and rarely constitute an institutional statement of theoretical or practical interest. Headers of sections and subsections may be retained as a manner or classifying and categorizing the statements in a given legislation or rule.

    2. (b)

      Identify sections and subsections of the policy as initial units of observation We call headers of sections and subsections “outline indicators.” Outline indicators are titles, subheadings, a capital or lowercase letters, colons, semicolons, or Roman numerals, used to separate sections from subsections and subsections from sub-subsections, etc. These initial units of observation are temporary and may be divided into additional units when there is more than one institutional statement within them.

    3. (c)

      Subdivide all initial section or subsection units from step 2 that have multiple sentences into sentence-based units of observation If a section or subsection does not have a complete sentence ending in a period, code the entire section or subsection as one unit of observation. If there are multiple sentences in the section or subsection, code each sentence as units of observation. In some instances, a single norm, rule, or strategy may span outline indicators. For example, a statement may include a colon with a list of objects separated by semicolons. In such examples, the coder will decide, based on the existence of syntactic components, whether a statement is bound by the outline indicators, or spans them.

  2. 2.

    Dissect the statements into syntactic components Institutional statements can be coded in one of two basic syntaxes: regulatory or constitutive. Regulatory statements generally refer to an identifiable action, while constitutive statements generally have no action, and instead define, label, or describe a position or part of the physical world.

    1. (a)

      Regulatory syntax Regulatory statements will contain all or most of the following components and should be coded according to the regulatory ADICO syntax: attribute, deontic, aIm, condition, and or else. Definitions and examples can be found in Table 6. Generally, regulatory statements will take one of three syntactic forms: ADICO, ADIC, or AIC.

      Table 6 Examples of regulatory statement syntactic components
      1. (1)

        Any sentence-based statement that contains two aims should be divided into the appropriate number of statements, relative to the other syntactic components. For example, the statement “The Mayor shall appoint department heads and the Council shall approve them.” can be broken into two statements: “The Mayor shall appoint department heads.” and “The Council shall approve department heads appointed by the Mayor.”

    2. (b)

      Constitutive syntax Constitutive statements will generally, but not always, contain an attribute, a description, or label for the attribute (or an inanimate object) and possibly will have conditions under which the description or label applies. Examples can be found in Table 7. Constitutive statements will take one of three syntactic forms: “There shall be X,” “X is Y,” and “X is Y under [specified conditions].”

      Table 7 Examples of constitutive statement syntax
  3. 3.

    Categorize the statements according to the rules typology The institutional statements can be classified as one of seven types, according to the functional purpose of the rule: position, boundary, payoff, aggregation, information, scope, and choice.

    1. (a)

      The first step is to compare the statement’s aim with the basic aim verbs listed in Table 1 and in the codebook in Appendix 2 (Ostrom 2005, p. 190). Determine which basic aim verb best approximates the specifically stated aim in question, and code the statement according to the corresponding type of institution.

    2. (b)

      Sometimes, the aim of the statement is ambiguous (especially in the case of constitutive statements) or reflective of more than one basic aim verb, requiring a second coding step. For example, both information and payoff rules may have an aim that falls under the “receive” basic aim verb. In instances where the aim is ambiguous, or reflective of more than one basic aim verbs, it is necessary to determine the regulated component of the target action situation that the aim is linked to. This may be accomplished by looking to the object and the condition of the statement and comparing these with the regulated component categories in Table 1 on the following page, and in the codebook in Appendix 2.

    3. (c)

      The third step is to compare the statement with additional indicators, specific to institution type, which can be found in the codebook in Appendix 2.

    4. (d)

      Finally, some statements cannot be coded simply as one institution type and may fall under two or more categories. For example: “The applicant must pay an entry fee to the organizer.” The statement is reflective of a payoff institution, as it assigns a cost to the applicant, and a benefit to the organizer. The statement is also reflective of a boundary institution, as it identifies a necessary action for the applicant to enter a position. In such instances, the coder should code the statement in question according to the following order: position, boundary, aggregation, payoff, information. This means, for example, that if a statement can be coded as both a boundary and an information institution, the coder will code it as a boundary institution.

    5. (e)

      Code all remaining institutional statements as either choice or scope rules. Choice and scope rules are default “all other” rules for statements that cannot accurately be classified as position, boundary, aggregation, information, or payoff rules (Ostrom 2005, p. 209). Choice rules refer to directives regarding what specific actions must, must not, or may be taken by an actor. The aim of a choice institution is an action. Scope rules outline or affect the outcome variable of action. The aim of a scope institution refers to an outcome (Ostrom 2005, p. 209). Additionally, one can distinguish scope rules from choice rules by determining whether the statement prescribed specific actions to be used in obtaining an outcome—if the statement refers to specific actions, or action sets, it is a choice institution.

  4. 4.

    Code the statements that allow for rule change Some statements have rules that target day-to-day behavior. Other statements allow for changes to the rules; these statements should be coded as “collective-choice.” Statements that meet the following criteria are collective choice: (1) statements that identify the positions or bodies that can change the rules, (2) the criteria by which the rules should be changed, and (3) the conditions under which the rules can be changed.

  5. 5.

    Multiple coders for intercoder reliability Multiple coders should code shared documents to ensure that the data collected through the coding process are reliable. Coding methods should be revised based on the coding experiences of the coders until an agreed upon percentage of coding similarity is reached. Communication between the coders regarding coding methods is key, as each new document may present new and distinct coding challenges (Tables 6, 7).

Appendix 2

See Table 8.

Table 8 Rule typology codebook

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Weible, C.M., Carter, D.P. The composition of policy change: comparing Colorado’s 1977 and 2006 smoking bans. Policy Sci 48, 207–231 (2015).

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  • Policy change
  • Policy design
  • Institutions
  • Institutional grammar