This article provides a comprehensive analysis of Eurosceptic contestation within the legislative arena of the European Parliament (EP) from 2009 to 2019. Under what conditions do Eurosceptics vote differently from their Europhile peers? The literatures on European integration, party competition and policy types lead us to expect variation in Eurosceptic contestation across policy areas. Drawing on roll-call votes in the EP, we introduce two new measures of such contestation: Eurosceptic dissent, that is, the extent to which Eurosceptics diverge from the Europhile plurality, and integration polarization, that is, the extent to which Eurosceptics and Europhiles oppose each other as cohesive camps. Our two indicators show that Eurosceptic contestation is particularly pronounced when the EP votes on cultural, distributive and constituent issues. When voting on redistributive policies, in contrast, dissent and polarization are curbed by national and ideological diversity.
Multilevel regression with post-stratification (MrP) has quickly become the gold standard for small area estimation. While the first MrP models did not include context-level information, current applications almost always make use of such data. When using MrP, researchers are faced with three problems: how to select features, how to specify the functional form, and how to regularize the model parameters. These problems are especially important with regard to features included at the context level. We propose a systematic approach to estimating MrP models that addresses these issues by employing a number of machine learning techniques. We illustrate our approach based on 89 items from public opinion surveys in the US and demonstrate that our approach outperforms a standard MrP model, in which the choice of context-level variables has been informed by a rich tradition of public opinion research.
Who gains legislative influence in early agreement negotiations (trilogues) between the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union? Practitioners from both institutions suspect that it is the other side. Meanwhile, critics point at trilogues' lack of transparency. This article proposes that legislative power and institutional transparency are inversely related: Opacity makes an actor more influential in political negotiations. The argument is tested on a matched sample of legislative files from the 1999–2009 period. The findings suggest that the European Parliament became more influential in early agreement negotiations — where it became opaque vis-à-vis the Council. In such negotiations, the relative influence of the European Parliament substantially increased; by contrast, the European Parliament did not gain influence in negotiations where it remained transparent.
Data innovation for international development: An overview of natural language processing for qualitative data analysis
2017 in IEEE Proceedings of the International Conference on the Frontiers and Advances in Data Science (FADS)
with Anna Hanchararticle
Availability, collection and access to quantitative data, as well as its limitations, often make qualitative data the resource upon which development programs heavily rely. Both traditional interview data and social media analysis can provide rich contextual information and are essential for research, appraisal, monitoring and evaluation. These data may be difficult to process and analyze both systematically and at scale. This, in turn, limits the ability of timely data driven decision-making which is essential in fast evolving complex social systems. In this paper, we discuss the potential of using natural language processing to systematize analysis of qualitative data, and to inform quick decision-making in the development context. We illustrate this with interview data generated in a format of micro-narratives for the UNDP Fragments of Impact project.
Regularized regression in Multilevel Regression and Poststratification: A Practical Guide and New Developments, ed. Rohan Alexander, Andrew Gelman and Lauren Kennedy.
with Lucas Leemann
and Reto Wüest conditionally accepted at Cambridge University Press.
Revise and resubmit
Legislation against the odds: Overcoming ideological gridlock in EU decision-making
with Lukas Obholzer
and Christine Reh revise and resubmit at the American Journal of Political Science
Negotiations in bicameral settings face the risk of gridlock when veto players' preferences diverge on the ideological (left-right) dimension. In the European Union, a high proportion of legislation appears to be gridlocked yet is nevertheless adopted. We argue that ideological gridlock is resolved through “generous concessions.” These concessions are made to uphold supranational cooperation, to capitalize on log-rolls, and under “permissive consensus” at the domestic level. We draw on novel data of amendments and repeals of existing EU legislation (1999–2014) and demonstrate that homogeneous elite-level preferences on continued cooperation and the possibility for issue-linkage help resolve gridlock. However, the potential for compromise has decreased substantially with rising levels of Euroskepticism. We contribute to established debates about legislative bargaining and demonstrate that polarized publics constrain elites' ability to reach compromise, diminishing polities' problem-solving capacity.
According to the extant literature, citizens who voted for a governing party are systematically more satisfied with democracy after an election than opposition party supporters. Despite being one of the most robust findings in social sciences, this "winner-loser gap" lacks causal evidence. To re-assess this claim, we make use of rare electoral contexts where it was highly uncertain which parties would form the incoming coalition government. Our research design relies on post-electoral surveys, split by the announcement of the new coalition government. We compare respondents' levels of satisfaction with democracy just before and just after the announcement of the new government. In addition, we employ random permutation tests to assess whether satisfaction with democracy is affected by the announcement of the new government in a systematic and meaningful way. Our approach yields little support for a substantial effect of winning or losing on respondents' satisfaction with democracy. Hence, the findings suggest that winning/losing is a mere proxy for a more complex mechanism driving voters' satisfaction with democracy around election time.
Patterns of roll-call vote requests in the European Parliament
with Bjørn Høyland
Studies of roll-call votes provide us with a unique insight into individual-level legislative behavior in EU politics. However, critiques warn against generalizing from roll-calls because they are requested strategically, for example, to signal a policy position or to enforce party group cohesion. What are the patterns of roll-call vote requests and do they suggest strategic behavior? To address this question, we leverage newly collected data on all roll-call vote requests in the European Parliament for the last two-and-a-half legislatures, from 2009 until today. We sketch the patterns of roll-call requests over time, across procedures, policy areas, and actors to evaluate the degree of (un)representativeness of roll-call votes along these dimensions. We contribute to a rich literature on legislative behavior in the European Union that is based on roll-call voting and that assumes that roll-calls are a representative sample of all voting in the European Parliament. In addition, we add to the scholarly debate on the representativeness of roll-call votes with a more comprehensive large-scale study than has been carried out on EP legislation to date.
Is there a legislative gender-bias in the European Parliament?
with Bjørn Høyland
Research suggests that women often need to overcome greater obstacles than men when carrying out similar tasks such as teaching university students, negotiating salaries or being elected to political office. We investigate whether female legislators also face greater obstacles than their male counterparts in the legislative arena. We leverage newly collected data on all types of votes including roll-calls in the European Parliament from 2004 to 2021 to assess whether roll-call votes are more frequently called when a woman is in charge of preparing a bill—when she is the rapporteur. We estimate the legislative gender-bias using a matching strategy to neutralise the effect of common causes of roll-call requests that may be related to gender as well, such as party affiliation, seniority, and legislator ideology. Our results shed light on the proper functioning of legislative assemblies which would be distorted by an anti-female bias.
The evolution of eurosceptic contestation in the European Parliament
with Lukas Obholzer
We provide a comprehensive analysis of change in eurosceptic contestation in the European Parliament from 1994 to 2019. Using novel preference data, we test whether increased euroscepticism is driven by replacement or preference change. Replacement takes place when Members of the European Parliament are replaced by more eurosceptic representatives. In contrast, when preferences of re-elected representatives become more eurosceptic over time, we refer to within-individual preference change. We disaggregate by policy and furthermore, we test whether more “extrme” members of eurosceptic parties are more likely to be re-elected in subsequent elections. Methodologically, we employ a Bayesian IRT model to estimate preferences that are comparable over legislative periods. Re-elected representatives' priors are set to the estimate from the previous term. This approach allows comparison over time and provides a measure of preference change: The difference between prior and posterior. We contribute to the growing literature on euroscepticism in the European Union by providing insights into the question whether increased scepticism takes place “top-down” where legislators become more eurosceptic or “bottom-up” where representatives are replaced by more eurosceptic legislators.
Substantive representation of euroscepticism: Contesting European integration within the European Parliament
with Lukas Obholzer
While some eurosceptic members of the European Parliament (MEPs) engage constructively with legislative work, others opt for blanket opposition. This is reflective of distinct legislative roles of MEPs and results in differences in the representation of eurosceptic voters. We ask whether and under what conditions eurosceptics' behaviour within the European Parliament is shaped by the potential for public attention. Combining novel data on voting behaviour in committee-level as well as in plenary-level roll calls, we leverage the difference in public attention that the two arenas attract. Our analysis draws on variation in attendance and voting behaviour patterns across levels to test competing explanations of how and to what extent eurosceptic legislators contest European integration when in the “public eye” in plenary as opposed to more secluded everyday work in committees. The findings demonstrate that MEPs are mindful of the distinct principals and audiences to whom they pander. The paper maps the behaviour and contributes to a growing literature on legislative behaviour of eurosceptics.
Priors for bridging: A dynamic scaling model for comparable preference estimates across legislative chambers and over time
with Reto Wüest
Actor preferences are an important component of legislative theories and scholars of legislative politics often face the problem that preference data is not comparable across legislative chambers or over time. We propose a novel method that allows for over-time and cross-chamber comparisons. Comparability is achieved by using prior information to pin down the preference scales in a Bayesian Item Response Theory model. Expert opinion on party preferences serves as prior information for individual legislators and prefence estimates from previous legislative terms provide priors for re-elected representatives. We demonstrate our approach by scaling the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. Our method provides preference estimates for all individual members of the European Parliament and member state governments in the Council of the European Union in two dimensions for the 1994–2019 period. The estimates have high face validity and by combining data sources, we mitigate weaknesses such as strategic selection in roll-calls and small N in expert opinion data.
Twenty years of committee organisation in the European Parliament: Ideology and representativeness of the standing committees 1994–2014
Are the standing committees of the European Parliament representative of the chamber as a whole or are they ideologically biased and should, therefore, be expected to produce biased policy? Theories of legislative organization lead to competing expectations and the empirical literature has provided mixed evidence. This article re-evaluates the effects of ideology, expertise, and partisanship on legislative organization in the European Parliament's standing committees. The analysis employs a quarter century of voting records (roll-calls) from the European Parliament (1994–2019), matched with web-scraped information on each individual representative in that period. The findings lend support to the informational rationale: Expertise explains committee membership across every committee over the twenty-five year period whereas ideology and partisanship are unrelated to legislative organization in the European Parliament.
Measures of public opinion on European integration are an increasingly important independent or dependent variable in many analyses of European politics, not least due to the progressing politicization of the EU. However, applied researchers typically use a single survey item as their measure of public opinion. This poses problems arising from discontinuations and interruptions of items in survey time-series as well as concerns about differential item functioning across countries, i.e. respondents from different contexts have different reference points from which they evaluate a question. We develop measures of opinion on European integration that are more comparable over time and across countries using group-level item-response theory models that recover yearly estimates of public opinion on integration in all EU member states on the following dimensions: (1) a utilitarian dimension; (2) an affective dimension; (3) an institutional dimension; (4) and an integration dimension. We select public opinion items from Eurobarometer surveys between 1974 and 2017, evaluate the face and predictive validity of our measures, discuss applications, and make the data available for academic use.
Strategic rapporteur selection in informal inter-institutional EU-negotiations
In informal interinstitutional decision making in the European Union, delegations from the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union meet behind closed doors to reach a compromise that is subsequently rubber stamped by the parent chambers. The literature on informal decision-making points to the risk of policy drift towards key figures. Both chambers should select the key negotiators strategically if the potential for agency drift exists. I test whether the Parliament selects its key negotiator, the rapporteur, strategically using new data on individual preferences of all members of Parliament, national and European party affiliations as well as committee memberships within Parliament. To identify the effect of informal negotiations on rapporteur selection, I exploit a rule change in 1999, where file conclusion using informal first reading agreements became possible for the first time. I estimate local average treatment effects using a regression discontinuity approach and provide evidence for strategic selection. The Parliament selects more centrist agents overall and more moderate party group members. Five-hundred placebo tests over a twenty-years period illustrate the robustness of the findings.
Measuring political influence: Agenda-setting power in the European Union
This research note is on the conceptualization of influence, to improve validity of its measurement and thereby our understanding of the legislative process. I discuss a current conceptualization used in innovative research on the power of the European Commission to shape policy, showing that theoretical contradictions may arise. I design a new measure that solves these issues by making the counterfactual expectation explicit and incorporating it into the measure. I replicate the research on the Commission's power and show (1) the Commission is, indeed, successful in seeing its preferences converted into policy, (2) contrary to the original piece, the Commission seems to possess genuine agenda setting power, (3) measurement matters as it shapes outcomes. This discussion may inform research on related work, such as the influence of lobby groups, parties, members of international organizations and more.
This project is about the effects of institutional design on decision-making in the European Union. Specifically: delegation to informal inter-institutional legislative bargaining (the 'informal arena'). I develop a spatial complete information model to explain the decision to delegate to the 'informal arena' and test its empirical implications. The meta-theoretical umbrella for this project is New Institutionalism (more specifically, Rational Choice Institutionalism) and I view the decision to delegate through a principal-agent lens, i.e., delegation may result in policy outcomes that differ from counterfactual non-delegated acts (agency-drift). I contribute to the theoretical and empirical literatures on informal law-making in the European Union and legislative organisation more generally.
In the EU, the ‘formal arena’ co-exists with the ‘informal arena.’ In the formal arena, bills shuttle back and forth between two chambers in a maximum of three reading stages. In the informal arena, inter-institutional negotiations are delegated. The delegations meet behind closed doors and the resulting compromise is rubber-stamped by the parent chambers. The extant literature suggests that law-making in the informal arena leads to agency-drift.
The questions that I address in this project are: when does delegation to the informal arena take place and, equally, when does delegation not take place? Furthermore, does delegation lead to agency-drift?
My findings suggest that delegation is less likely, the greater the risk of agency-drift and more likely the greater the legislative workload cost of not delegating. I show that the bicameral system alters the incentive structure of legislative actors such that agency-drift is rare or moderate if it occurs.