Open/Closed List and Party Choice: Experimental Evidence from the UK Abstract Paper

with Andrew C. Eggers, Dominik Hangartner & Simon Hix, British Journal of Political Science (2016)

Which parties benefit from open-list (as opposed to closed-list) proportional representation elections? This article shows that a move from closed-list to open-list competition is likely to be more favorable to parties with more internal disagreement on salient issues; this is because voters who might have voted for a unified party under closed lists may be drawn to specific candidates within internally divided parties under open lists. The study provides experimental evidence of this phenomenon in a hypothetical European Parliament election in the UK, in which using an open-list ballot would shift support from UKIP (the Eurosceptic party) to Eurosceptic candidates of the Conservative Party. The findings suggest that open-list ballots could restrict support for parties that primarily mobilize on a single issue.

Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste: Agenda Setting and Legislative Voting in Response to the EU Crisis Abstract Paper

with Benjamin E Lauderdale, Forthcoming – Journal of Politics (2017)

When exogenous shocks make status quo policies less attractive, legislators become more tolerant to proposed alternatives that are further from their ideal in general political dimensions. This increases the discretion of legislative agenda-setters, and allows them to pass policy that would have been impossible in the absence of a crisis. We argue that this dynamic explains changes in voting patterns of the European Parliament during the period of the financial crisis, given control of the agenda-setting process by pro-integration actors. We observe voting coalitions increasingly dividing legislators along the pro-anti integration dimension of disagreement, but only in policy areas related to the crisis. In line with more qualitative assessments of the content of passed legislation, the implication is that pro-integration actors were able to shift policy further towards integration than they could have without the crisis.

Under review

Legislative Role Models: Female Ministers, Participation, and Influence in Parliamentary Debate Abstract Paper

Under Review (2017)

When women are promoted to high office, do they serve as role models to other women in politics? I evaluate a female role-model hypothesis by examining parliamentary debates in the UK House of Commons. In the context of a difference-in-differences design which exploits over-time variation in the gender of cabinet ministers, I demonstrate that appointing a female minister increases the participation of other female MPs in relevant debates by approximately one third, compared to when the minister is male. Further, using a measure of debate influence, based on the degree to which the words used by one legislator are subsequently adopted by other members, I show that female ministers also increase the influence of female backbenchers. To explore the mechanisms behind these results, I introduce a new metric of ministerial responsiveness and show that female ministers are significantly more responsive to the speeches of female backbenchers than are male ministers.

Working papers

Measuring Agenda-Setting Influence from Legislative Speech Abstract Paper

Working Paper (2018)

Assessing which actors are influential in political debate is important for understanding the mechanisms behind legislative decision-making. Conceiving of ‘influence’ as a speaker’s ability to mould discussion of an issue towards their own framing, I propose a measurement strategy which infers influence by modelling each speech in a debate as a function of the speeches that preceded it. Intuitively, an influential speech is one that is highly predictive of other speeches that occur later in the debate, and influential legislators are those who deliver influential speeches. I apply this method to debates in the UK House of Commons from 1979 to 2018, and compare the measure to potential alternatives in a series of validation tests. I demonstrate the value of this approach by using the measure to address important questions in legislative politics.

Model-Based Pre-Election Polling for National and Sub-National Outcomes in the US and UK Abstract Paper

with Benjamin E Lauderdale, Delia Bailey and Douglas Rivers – Working Paper (2017)

We describe a strategy for applying multilevel regression and post-stratication (MRP) methods to pre-election polling. Using a combination of contemporaneous polling, census data, past election polling, past election results, as well as other sources of information, we are able to construct probabilistic, internally consistent estimates of national vote and the sub-national electoral districts that determine seats or electoral votes in many electoral systems. We report on the performance of three applications of the general framework conducted and publicly released in advance of the 2016 UK Referendum on EU Membership, the 2016 US Presidential Election, and the 2017 UK General Election.

Does Online Activism Affect Legislative Behaviour? Abstract

Working Paper (2017)

Are legislators responsive to the issue priorities of their constituents? E-petition systems have been adopted in many countries in recent years, commonly with the goal of strengthening the representational bond between representatives and their constituents. Despite this, we know little about the effects of such petitions on legislative behaviour. In the UK, signatures to government e-petitions provide MPs with information regarding the salience of different issues amongst their constituents. I examine whether increased local support for an e-petition affects an MP’s propensity to debate the petition in parliament, and the likelihood that they speak in favour of the petition. I introduce new data on e-petitions and propose a new strategy to control for MPs’ general tendencies to participate on similar topics in non-petition debates. Conditioning on the topic under discussion, I show that local support for an e-petition increases the probability that an MP participates in parliamentary debate relevant to the petition, and makes the MP more likely to speak in favour of the petition. However, these effects are conditional: online advocacy is only effective when addressing topics that are not strongly linked to the main dimension of partisan competition. When petitions address party-political issues, signature rates have no effect on MP behaviour. Finally, these effects are stronger for MPs in electorally competitive constituencies, and weaker for MPs who hold government positions.

Intra-Party Politics, Cohesion, and Legislative Gridlock Abstract Paper

Working Paper (2016)

Where the preferences of party members are more diffuse, it becomes more difficult for legislative party leaders to discipline their members, making agenda control a more attractive means of maintaining party cohesion on the legislative floor. Thus, when disciplinary resources are limited, increases in intra-party polarisation will increase the range of proposals blocked by party leaders. Using roll-call data and a new dataset of blocked legislative proposals, I show that these relationships hold in the European Parliament, where agenda control and carrot and stick disciplinary powers are held by different sets of parliamentary actors. These findings have implications for our understanding of European Parliament politics specifically, and for the relationship between intra-party dynamics and legislative gridlock more generally.