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Working Papers

“Ambiguity & Party Positions in Multi-Party Systems” with Shaun Bowler and Benjamin Ferland. pdficon_small 

The stylized view of democratic elections is fairly simple. The parties contesting an election present their policy platforms and the voters cast their votes for the party whose policy positions they prefer the most. Yet, as we know, in practice elections are often quite different from the stylized view. It is not always clear, for example, what a party’s political position is, nor whether that position will remain the same over repeated elections. In fact, a formal literature discusses the strategic incentives facing parties to make their positions muddy, rather than clear. The formal literature on this topic is only matched by much smaller empirical literature. In this paper, we address that shortcoming by examining uncertainty in party position taking in multi-party systems. We nd that parties are more ambiguous on the policies that are most important to them and that parties positioned away from the center of party systems tend to exhibit less ambiguity.

“Gamson’s Law and Government Dissolution: An Experimental Analysis” with Jón Þór Sturluson. Presented at the 2015 annual meeting of the Western Political Science Association, Las Vegas. pdficon_small 

The standard models of coalition formation have a hard time accounting for the well-documented empirical regularity of coalition parties being allocated cabinet portfolios in proportion to their size. Game theoretic models of government formation typically assume that the game ends with the formation of a coalition. A more realistic assumption is that the parties accrue payoffs over the lifetime of the coalition, which introduces concerns for government survival. This introduces incentives to form stable coalitions that can explain why bargaining outcomes are more proportional than the standard Baron-Ferejohn model predicts. In this manuscript, we examine the prediction of a simple model of government formation that allows for government dissolution in an experimental setting.

“Patterns of Party Competition: Ideological Proximity and Coalition Potential” with Shaun Bowler and Eva H. Önnudóttir. Presented at the 2015 annual meeting of the European Political Science Association, Vienna. pdficon_small 

Models of party competition usually assume that parties compete by simply choosing policy positions. One does not have to follow elections closely to realize that is only a part of any campaign. While parties do typically publish and publicize manifestos much of their campaigns are also devoted to discussing the policies of other parties, the credibility of those policies, and the competence of their leaders. As parties face both time and financial constraints it is unlikely to be an efficient strategy to target all the other parties. In this paper, we ask what factors shape the patterns of competition observed in elections in multiparty systems. We argue that parties face strong incentives to attack those parties that are most similar in ideological terms but those incentives are conditioned by post-electoral coalition formation opportunities. Thus, ideologically proximate parties with a history of governing together, strong expectations of governing together (conditional on having a narrow majority), or commitments to govern together are less likely to make each other the foci of their campaign than they otherwise would. We examine the implications of our theory using novel campaign and survey data that allows us to identify how each party targeted other parties.

“Negative Campaigning in Multi-Candidate Contests” with Charles Crabtree, Matt Golder, and Thomas Gschwend. pdficon_small 

The literature on negative campaigning has primarily focused on contests between two candidates in elections for a single office. In multiparty contests, the candidates, or parties, face more options, i.e., they not only decide whether to ‘go negative’ but also which candidate (or candidates) are their target. We evaluate the predictions of a spatial model of negative campaigning in multicandidate contests in which the candidates choose whether to conduct i) a negative or a positive campaign and ii) whether to campaign on policy or valence issues.

“Voter Bias or Candidate Resources? The Effects of Candidate Gender in Primary Elections” with Ásdís Jóna Sigurjónsdóttir. Presented at the 2010 Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago. pdficon_small 

The underrepresentation of women in legislatures has attracted considerable attention and many countries have adopted gender quotas in order to achieve improved female representation. Questions remain, however, whether gender quotas are the appropriate remedy to the underlying problem. With some simplification, women may be underrepresented because voters are biased against female candidates or because women may lack the resources (financial, social, etc.) to run effective campaigns. Gender quotas may be the appropriate tool if voter bias is to fault whereas gender quotas may only mask underlying inequalities if resources are to blame. The latter possibility raises the question of whether gender quotas influence the quality of elected legislators in a positive or a negative way depending on the context. Assessing voter bias is difficult because of selection effects and intervening variables such as ideology. In this paper, I examine this issue using a unique dataset on voting behavior in primary elections for PR elections. The dataset consists of ballots, on which the voters rank the candidates in order of their preference, as well as data on the candidates’ characteristics, allowing us to estimate the effect of gender.

“Reshuffling the Deck: The Policy Effects of Cabinet Reshuffles.” Presented at the 2007 European Consortium of Political Research general conference, Pisa. pdficon_small 

Cabinet reshuffles are regularly portrayed as reducing ministerial competence as they limit ministers’ ability and incentive to become specialists in issues falling under their portfolio. Yet cabinet reshuffles occur frequently in many countries and, moreover, often they are ‘pure’ reshuffles, i.e., the ministers will occupy different portfolios but the set of ministers remains the same. In this paper, I model cabinet decision-making as an infinitely repeated game and compare the possible equilibrium outcomes in the presence and the absence of a reshuffle mechanism. The set of policy outcomes where the prime minister has the option of reshuffling the cabinet allows for policy outcomes that are more favorable to the prime minister as well as the ministers. In addition, the model suggests that cabinet reshuffles also reduce the costs of monitoring ministers’ actions.

“Live for Today, Hope for Tomorrow? Rethinking Gamson’s Law “ Presented at the Annual Conference of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, and the Congress of the International Political Science Association, Santiago. pdficon_small 

The empirical phenomenon termed Gamson’s Law is well known but not least because it lacks firm theoretical foundations. In fact, Gamson’s Law is a real puzzle as most models of coalition bargaining suggest that bargaining strength should determine the division of portfolios, which, in turn, suggests that portfolios should rarely be allocated in proportion to the parties’ seat share. I propose a theory of portfolio allocation that goes some way toward explaining Gamson’s Law. The theory emphasizes the need to maintain, rather than simply form, coalitions. The desire to maintain the coalition provides the parties with radically different incentives, i.e., instead of maximizing their share in the short run they face a trade-off; taking too much of the pie for oneself means that one’s coalition partner can be bought off rather easily. Thus, the problem of forming a stable coalition requires making it sufficiently expensive to buy off each party in the coalition. While this logic is in many respects similar to the logic of the standard coalition bargaining model it differs in important ways as a new coalition may form at any time, i.e., the opposition parties can always propose to form a new coalition. I test hypotheses derived from the model on an extensive dataset on portfolio allocations in coalition cabinets across Europe.

“Engineered Instability: How Prime Ministers use Reshuffles to Control Government” with Christopher Kam. Presented at the 2005 European Consortium of Political Research joint sessions of workshops, Granada. pdficon_small 


“Coalitions and Clientelism: Explaining Cross-National Variation in Patterns of Coalition Formation.” Presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, the General Conference of the European Consortium of Political Research, Budapest, and the Department of Economics, University of Birmingham (invited talk). pdficon_small 

I present a theory about the influence of clientelism on coalition formation. Clientelism provides the link between the two competing strands of theorizing about coalition formation that assume that politicians are motivated by either policy or office. Clientelism, or its absence, induces preferences among the political parties and candidates over policy and office. The presence of clientelism induces politicians to act as office-seekers because the executive office provides important access to particularistic benefits essential to securing re-election. In the absence of clientelism, on the other hand, holding an executive office takes on reduced importance since re-election is not secured through the distribution of particularistic benefits but by influencing policy. Although the executive office can be advantageous in structuring policy-making it is not the only avenue of influencing policy. The theory gives rise to a number of hypotheses about coalition formation and governance, which I test on a sample of 14 parliamentary democracies.

“Cabinet Reshuffles in the French Fifth Republic: When to Reshuffle the Prime Minister” with Christopher Kam. Presented at the 2005 European Consortium of Political Research joint sessions of workshops, Granada and the 2005 meeting of the American Political Science Association. pdficon_small 

France’s semi-presidential form of government provides an interesting case for testing theories of cabinet reshuffles. It is not the semi-presidential form of government as such that makes France an interesting case but the sharp contrast between periods of cohabitation and unified government in terms of who leads the government. Thus, different actors are in a position to initiate cabinet reshuffles at different points in time. We argue that cabinet reshuffles are strategic devices that the presidents (under unified government) and prime ministers (under cohabitation) use to fend off challenges to their leadership. We find that cohabitation and the presidential and prime ministerial approval rates influence the stability of government. Moreover, the effect of the approval rates are influenced by cohabitation.

“Duration of Coalition Bargaining: The Impact of Particularistic Politics.” Presented at the 2004 meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago. pdficon_small 

In this paper I use insights from bargaining theory to study delays in the formation of government coalitions and, in particular, how the politicians’ relative preferences over policy and office influence bargaining duration. I argue that cross-national incentives to pursue particularistic policies induce politicians’ willingness to accept policy compromises and consequently the bargaining duration. The hypotheses derived from the model are tested on a sample of coalition formation opportunities in 10 Western-European countries. The results indicate that particularism does influence bargaining duration.

“Optimal Timing of Campaign Spending in Elections” with Justin Fox. Prepared for the meeting of the American Political Science Association, San Francisco. pdficon_small 

We present a theory of campaign spending in elections. In our model, we show that in the absence of competitive electoral pressure the timing of campaign spending will depend on the relative benefits of spending money early vs. late in the campaign. When the candidates have to compete for funds, and their ability to raise funds depends on their standing in the polls, candidates are forced to increase their spending early on in the campaign. This finding appears consistent, e.g., with a number of presidential primary races.

“Government Formation and Termination in Iceland: 1945-2000”. Prepared for a workshop on Coalition Governance in Western Europe, University of Kent, England. pdficon_small 

An ‘extended’ version of the article ‘A Theory of Coalitions & Clientelism’ published in EJPR.