Peter John, Shaun Bevan
What Are Policy Punctuations? Large Changes in the Legislative Agenda of the UK Government, 1911–2008

Policy Studies Journal, 2012: 40, issue 1, pp. 89-108
ISSN: 1541-0072

In this article, we argue that policy punctuations differ from each other in ways that reflect distinct types of political change. We identify three main kinds. The first are procedural changes that have unique unrelated policies within the same issue area. Within the remaining large policy changes, high-salience punctuations are associated with increased attention in the media, whereas low-salience punctuations do not attract such scrutiny. The analysis applies the typology to data from the UK Policy Agendas Project, identifying punctuations from the content of Acts of the UK Parliament between 1911 and 2008. Using evidence from the historical record and the data series, the analysis places each observation within the typology. We claim that the typology has a more general application and could be replicated in other jurisdictions and time periods. We conclude that attention to the historical record and qualitative studies of punctuations can complement and inform the analysis of aggregate data series.