Crises require fast responses by the state, no matter whether they follow from natural disasters, terrorist attacks, or the spread of diseases. Motivated by this rational, most constitutions equip their executives with extensive competencies to cope with emergency situations, so that governments can react on short notice and in a flexible manner. While the measures taken by governments to address the COVID-19 outbreak currently receive a lot of media attention, it is far less visible how parliaments respond to these special circumstances. However, legislatures have the right and obligation to hold governments accountable in ordinary and extraordinary times. In this blog contribution, I therefore explore how representatives have been overseeing the government in the COVID-19 crisis during the last weeks.… Read More Business as usual? The COVID-19 crisis in German state legislatures
In his recently published article in the American Journal of Political Science, George Ward suggests that it is necessary for politicians and researchers to look ‘beyond GDP’ to understand why and when citizens vote for sitting governments. Studies engaging with economic voting show that a good economy leads to higher chances of re-election. Ward now directs our attention to the influence of happiness in this context: Do high levels of national happiness enhance the probability of re-election of an incumbent government, and can individual well-being explain vote intentions?… Read More Happiness and Voting: Evidence from Four Decades of Elections in Europe
If a woman takes over a certain ministry in a cabinet, the speech rate of female representatives on issues belonging to her resort increases approximately 23 percent. This impressive figure is presented by Blumenau in a recent publication in the British Journal of Political Science which investigates parliamentary speech-making in the British House of Commons between 1997 and 2017. This research is breaking new ground by revealing how ministers’ gender impacts not only the participation but also the influence of female members of parliament on their colleagues.… Read More Literature Review: The Effects of Female Leadership on Women’s Voice in Political Debate
Governance in multi-level settings is complicated. Most parties do not only compete against each other at the national level but also at the regional, the local or even the European level (see e.g. Braun and Schmitt, forthcoming; Gross and Jankowski, 2020; Müller, 2013). To complicate matters even further, parties do not stop at policy signalling after elections, but they write coalition agreements if they are able to enter government after successful coalition negotiations. While previous research analysed the length and comprehensiveness of coalition agreements extensively (see e.g. Bowler et al., 2016; Eichorst, 2014; Indridason and Kristinsson, 2013; Krauss, 2018), the specific challenges of coalition agreements in multi-level settings have so far been neglected. When writing coalition agreements, the parties have at least two options to choose from when deciding what to include in the joint contract. On the one hand, they can include those topics that are relevant and salient for their voters. On the other hand, they can also consider the political environment they bargain in. In our recent article in German Politics, we concentrate on the latter option and ask: Which topics do governing parties cover in their coalition agreements in multi-level settings?… Read More What do governing parties in Germany talk about in their coalition agreements?
Previous research has indicated that voters’ assessment of politicians is shaped by various personal determinants like gender, ethnic affiliation, the level of education and occupational status. In their recent work, Griffin et al. further analyze whether the income of congressional candidates impacts voters’ evaluations. Building on earlier work from stereotyping studies the authors hypothesize that the perception of a candidate changes with the level of their income. On the one hand, people might believe that wealthier candidates possess more pronounced leadership and are hence more competent for political office, but, on the other hand, voters might also perceive high-income candidates as less honest, empathetic and relatable. Voters’ biased evaluations of candidates’ personalities have profound consequences in the electoral arena. Citizens don’t think – moreover don’t trust – that a high-income candidate would stand up for their needs and interests. Consequently, voters turn away from the high-income candidate and are more likely to vote for a low-income candidate.… Read More Literature Review: The Evaluation Bias Against High-Income Congressional Candidates
It is a common assumption that the election of more women to parliament leads to a higher representation of women’s interests in the legislative arena. Because female members of parliament (MPs) share gender-specific experiences with the female population – so the argument goes – it is expected that they are more concerned with women-specific topics and that they also represent these issues more frequently in the parliamentary process compared with their male colleagues (Phillips 1995). On the one hand, this is corroborated by a number of studies showing that female legislators have different priorities than male MPs (Coffé and Reiser 2018), that they increasingly engage in plenary and committee debates on women-specific interests (Bäck, Debus and Müller 2014), and that they introduce more law initiatives on women-specific interests (Volden, Wiseman, and Wittmer 2018). On the other hand, however, many of these studies also reveal that the legislative behavior of female MPs does not always indicate strong commitments to the representation of women-specific interests. Besides the justified critique that women are not a homogenous group with a fixed set of interests, these results also spurred the conclusion that the link between descriptive and substantive representation of women seems to be more complicated than previously assumed and that we should focus on the analysis of the conditions and institutional settings under which female legislators are able to act on behalf of women.… Read More Do female MPs represent women’s interests in parliament? Yes, but only if the electoral system permits it!
In a tight race, Ursula von der Leyen was elected by the European Parliament to be president of the European Commission [EC] last week. One of many promises she made during her short campaign, was the pledge to bring in 50 percent women as commissioners. This is an ambitious endeavor given that women currently occupy about 30 percent of the offices. This figure is considerably higher than the average proportion of female ministers in the member states through the 2000s, where only 23.4 percent of all government members were women (own data, excluding Malta and Cyprus). The literature on politics and gender would lead us to expect the opposite pattern with lower proportions of women in the commission compared to national executives: For instance, theories highlighting the role of political opportunity structure point to the fact that women are less likely to reach political offices if only one position is available (Jalalzai 2008) and, since every country sends only one commissioner, women should stand low chances to be selected. Students of executive and legislative recruitment revealed that women have lower chances if aspirants can not declare their interest for offices independently since women are less likely to be part of the insider networks from which candidates are selected in such cases (Matland 2002). Since the EC nominations are made by governments behind closed doors, women face additional barriers to their consideration as nominees. Which factors enable women to overcome these obstacles to EC appointment and explain whether countries sent female commissioners?… Read More Women as European Commissioners – Can von der Leyen reach the fifty percent she promised?