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Research in public policy and political economy has provided many insights in the evolution of public resistance against genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the last two decades. But how does the partisan composition of a government, its programmatic orientation and the allocation of cabinet offices affect policy making in this specific area? We argue that the regulation of GMOs is determined by the ideological orientation of governments and the presence of parties with a specific ideological background in the cabinet. In addition, we hypothesize that the parties’ control over relevant cabinet posts matter for GMO regulation. We test our hypotheses by using an innovative dataset that contains information on biotechnology regulation outputs of European governments in the time period from 1996 until 2013, the partisan composition and policy-area specific positions of governments, and the party affiliation of key cabinet actors. The results show that the presence of a Christian democratic party in a cabinet increases the chances of a ban on biotech crops, in particular if it controls the Ministry of the Environment.
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Partisanship, Ministers and Biotechnology Regulation
Hanna Bäck
Lund University
Marc Debus
University of Mannheim
Jale Tosun
University of Heidelberg
How does partisanship affect policy-making when issues span over several policy areas? This paper analyzes
biotechnology regulation, an issue not only related to environmental policy, but also to agricultural policy and
ethical considerations. We evaluate three hypotheses specifying the relationship between partisanship and
biotechnical regulation, suggesting that a cultivation ban for biotech crops is more likely (1) when Green,
Christian or Agrarian parties are in cabinet; (2) when the cabinet’s center of gravity is more in favor of
environmental protection, more societally conservative, or more EU-skeptical, and (3) when a Green, Christian
or Agrarian party holds the relevant ministry. Our hypotheses are evaluated using a newly constructed
comparative dataset containing information on biotechnology regulation outputs of governments in 27 European
countries in the time period 1996–2013. Our results show that the presence of a Christian party in cabinet makes
a ban for biotech crops more likely, in particular if this party controls the relevant ministry.
KEY WORDS: Biotechnology regulation; cabinet governance; partisanship; environmental
policy; ministers.
Manuscript under review.
Green biotechnology has become a controversial area of policy-making in the European
Union (EU). While in the early 1990s the EU member states predominantly held a positive
attitude towards biotechnology, today ten of them have prohibited the commercial cultivation
of biotech crops. The existing body of research has provided many insights into the role of
public resistance and the biotech industry for biotechnology laws (Lieberman & Gray, 2006;
Kurzer & Cooper, 2007; Levidow & Boschert, 2008; Seifert, 2009). What is less well
understood is how the ideological composition of cabinets and the presence of parties with
specific interests influence the decision to adopt biotechnology-related regulations.
We know from several studies that ideological orientations and policy area-specific
positions of political parties have an impact on the output of political and legislative
processes (e.g., Hibbs, 1977, 1992; Schmidt, 1996; Cusack, 1999; Bräuninger, 2005; Martin
& Vanberg, 2004, 2011; Schulze, 2014; Cazals & Sauquet, 2015). But how does the partisan
composition of a government, its programmatic orientation and the allocation of cabinet
offices affect policy-making in a specific issue like biotechnology?
To answer these questions, we derive theoretical expectations informed by comparative
public policy, political economy and coalition governance. We hypothesize that
biotechnology policy is shaped by the degree to which the ideological orientation of a
government is pro-environment, societally conservative or skeptical towards further
European integration. Furthermore, we contend that the mere presence of Green, Christian
and Agrarian parties within a government results in the adoption of ban for the commercial
cultivation for biotech crops. The latter should take place in particular if parties from these
three party families control the cabinet post in charge of environmental issues.
We evaluate our hypotheses by employing an original dataset that contains information on
biotechnology regulation outputs of 27 EU member states in the time period from 1996 until
2013, the partisan composition of their governments, the party affiliation of key cabinet
actors and their policy positions. Our results show that the presence of a Christian party in
cabinet makes a ban for biotech crops more likely. This effect holds true in particular when
this party controls the environment ministry or the minister of agriculture.
The remainder of this paper consists of five main parts. In the first part we provide a short
illustration of the history of EU biotechnology regulation. In the second part we introduce our
theoretical reasoning and derive hypotheses. The third part presents the dependent variable of
this study, namely the adoption of bans for the commercial cultivation of biotech crops that
are authorized in the EU, and our explanatory features. The fourth part presents the findings
of our analysis, and the final part presents some concluding remarks.
Providing the context for the analysis: EU biotechnology regulation
European biosafety policy begins with the adoption of Council Directive 90/219/EEC on the
contained use of genetically modified micro-organisms and Council Directive 90/220/EEC on
the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms in 1990.
According to the Council Directive 90/220/EEC, farmers or companies seeking to market or
release GMOs had to apply for permission to the competent national authority of the
respective member state. It should be noted that this directive gave the member states the
right to invoke safeguard bans provisionally restricting or banning the use and/or sale of that
product in their territories, even subsequent to the formal approval of a certain GMO. These
safeguard bans, however, had to be based on new scientific evidence about health or
environmental hazards and were subject to approval by the Commission (Pollack & Shaffer,
2010). Directive 2001/18/EC replaced Council Directive 90/220/EEC and effectively meant a
tightening of the regulatory regime. The new directive was adopted at a time where the
authorization process of GMOs had come to a halt. Following the Environment Council
meeting in June 1999 a de facto moratorium was put in place (Lieberman & Gray, 2006). It
was inspired by two groups of member states: Denmark, France, Greece, Italy and
Luxembourg presented a ‘Declaration of Suspension’ stating that they will not approve any
new marketing of GMOs. Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden
asked for more stringent rules and indicated that, in the meantime, they would authorize no
further GMO releases (Tromans, 2001; Tosun, 2014).
Despite the tightening of the regulatory framework by the adoption of Directive
2001/18/EC, GM-skeptical governments insisted on more stringent EU regulations (Pollack
& Shaffer, 2010). Therefore, in 2009, 13 Member States asked the Commission for more
flexibility to decide not to cultivate GMOs on their territory. This is why, in 2010, the
Commission adopted a proposal to the European Parliament and to the Council to offer
additional possibilities to member states to ban or restrict the cultivation of GMOs on part of
or all their territory, based on their national circumstances, and without affecting the EU
authorization system. In July 2011, the European Parliament issued a positive first reading
opinion on the Commission’s proposal with amendments, and in June 2014 the Council
adopted a political agreement which paved the way for the formal adoption of the proposal.
This brief overview of the regulatory history shows how controversial the issue of GMO
release has become in the course of time, and that the gap between the policy preferences of
the Commission and the member states has grown consistently. While this split has
manifested itself most impressively with the instituting of the de facto moratorium, it is also
reflected by the member states’ individual responses to the Commission’s regulatory efforts.
Previous research and theoretical argument
The literature on partisan policy-making
A large number of studies highlight that policy outputs are influenced by the partisan
composition and the ideological orientation of parties in government (e.g. Hibbs, 1977, 1992;
Schmidt, 1996; Cusack, 1999; Bräuninger, 2005; Martin & Vanberg, 2011). Several studies
stress utility maximizing strategies of parties to demonstrate the link between the
programmatic orientation of a government and the design of a policy (see e.g., Imbeau, Pétry,
& Lamari, 2001). The basic argument is that political parties represent different segments in
the electorate, which have different interests. The social groups that parties represent want
their policy goals implemented, and therefore parties and their representatives in parliament
and government should do everything to satisfy the interests of their voters and, therefore, to
implement their policy preferences. This should increase the chances for parties to maximize
their vote share in the next election, so that the likelihood increases that the party gains
control over governmental offices, which in turn makes it easier to implement the party’s
favored policies. Hence, parties are assumed to be instrumentally or intrinsically policy-
seeking (e.g., Downs, 1957; Müller & Strøm, 1999).
While in terms of economic and welfare policy the basic argument is that the control over
the government by a left-wing party or its simple presence as a coalition partner increases the
chances for a stronger presence of the state in the economy and an interventionist welfare
state (e.g., Franzese, 2002), in terms of environmental policy, the presence of green parties in
government should result in a more environmental-friendly policy output (e.g., Jahn, 1998,
2000; Scruggs, 1999; Neumayer, 2003; Schulze, 2014). There are, however, mixed findings
when it comes to the impact of Green party presence in government or parliament on
environmental policy outputs, even though previous research show that voting behavior is
influenced by perceived distances between the position of a voter and of the parties or
candidates that run for office on an environmental policy dimension (e.g., Thurner, 2000;
Thurner & Eymann, 2000), so that parties should have incentives to implement their
environmental policy goals once in power.
Several studies related to the ‘translation’ of party positions into legislative and/or policy
outputs do, however, demonstrate that not only the basic ideological orientation of parties
indicated by their ‘membership’ in a party family influences broad indicators of state
activity like unemployment, government debt or government expenditures, but also that the
specific ideological orientation of parties, which can vary over time (e.g., Klingemann,
Volkens, Bara, Budge, & McDonald, 2006; Volkens, Bara, Budge, & McDonald, 2014;
Tosun, 2014), matters for outputs of the political process. Bräuninger (2005) shows that the
specific economic position of a government, rather than its more general left-right position,
makes a difference for explaining government expenditures (for an application to
environmental policy, see, e.g., Knill, Debus, & Heichel, 2010). Bräuninger & Debus (2009)
show that policy-area positions and issue area saliencies matter for the legislative activity not
only of the government and the parties that support the cabinet, but also for the individual
members of parliament.
Up until recently, very little systematic research has been done investigating the role of
individual cabinet ministers in policy-making. Herzog (2012) and Alexiadou (2012) have
examined the role of partisanship of cabinet ministers and of cabinet ministers’ background
on social policy outcomes. For example, Herzog (2012) shows that changes in income
replacement rates are closely associated with changes in the party that controls the social
ministry, finding (unexpectedly) that leftist ministers lead to more welfare state retrenchment.
The literature on coalition governance and portfolio allocation
In this paper we also draw on the broader literature on coalition governance (see, e.g., Strøm,
Müller, & Bergman, 2003, 2008) and portfolio allocation. Most of the studies that aim at
explaining portfolio allocation have focused on the ‘quantitative’ aspect of portfolio
allocation, and several authors have shown that there is an almost perfect one-to-one
proportionality between the share of portfolios received by a party participating in a
governing coalition and the share of that party’s coalition parliamentary seats, a relationship
dubbed ‘Gamson’s Law’ (see, e.g., Gamson 1961; Warwick & Druckman, 2006). Some
authors have also focused on the more ‘qualitative’ aspect of portfolio allocation, or the
question of ‘who gets what in terms of ministerial payoffs, and why?’ The assumption is that
parties may have specific portfolio preferences since ‘each party has a particular set of policy
concerns, seeing control over a specific portfolio as an instrumental means of advancing
these’ (Laver & Schofield, 1990: 183), given a certain degree of ministerial autonomy.
For example, Budge and Keman (1990: 90) tried to specify ‘the general policy objectives
of each party, in relation to ministries, and to rank the latter in order of their importance to the
party’. This a priori ranking of general party policy interests was supposed to indicate
substantive preferences of parties for specific ministries. The authors for example show that,
when in cabinet Socialists take Labor, Health and Social Welfare more than 80 per cent of the
time. Bäck, Debus and Dumont (2011) argue that parties which, in their election manifestos,
emphasize themes corresponding to the policy remit of specific cabinet portfolios are more
likely to obtain control over these portfolios. They show that policy saliency is indeed an
important predictor of portfolio allocation in postwar Western Europe.
An important theoretical contribution is Laver and Shepsle’s (1996) ‘portfolio allocation
model’ which relies on the assumption that the minister of a department has considerable
discretion to act on his or her own. This implies that, to be credible, a proposed policy
position must correspond to the position of the party assigned to the portfolio that controls
this specific policy dimension. Even though this assumption has been criticized for being
unrealistic, and received modest endorsement when country-specialists were asked about this
feature (Warwick, 1999: 371), and even though there is high likelihood that the autonomy of
individual ministers varies across countries and cabinets (see e.g. Laver & Hunt, 1992), we
base some hypotheses on this idea that individual ministers matter for environmental policy-
making (see also, e.g., Herzog 2012).
A completely different view of coalition governance follows the work by Tsebelis (2002)
and assumes that ‘each coalition party is a veto player that can maintain the status quo policy
position against the demands of its coalition partner or partners’ (Strøm, Müller, & Bergman,
2008: 523). According to Tsebelis (2002: 96), any coalition party is a veto player, regardless
of the allocation of cabinet portfolios and hence, no policy decisions are taken without the
support of each coalition party. In this view, the mere presence of a party in cabinet could
lead to a specific policy output, or to a ‘deadlock’ of decision-making.
Hence, the previous literature has presented two ‘extreme’ types of coalition governance
models: (1) the so called veto player model, where policy-making is characterized by the fact
that each player or party in the cabinet is able to veto certain proposals, thereby shaping
government policy in line with the party’s preferences, and (2) the so called ministerial
discretion model, where each minister has a high level of autonomy, allowing ministers to
influence policy in the area controlled by their department in line with their preferences.
Neither of these models are however a realistic depiction of policy-making in coalition
governments. As argued by authors like Müller and Strøm (2000: 18), governments do not
give complete autonomy to individual cabinet ministers or department heads. At the same
time, as suggested by Bäck, Müller and Nyblade (2013), ‘holding a particular portfolio gives
the respective party strong (though not exclusive) influence over the policy-making in the
respective domain and the other parties’ abilities to veto decisions are considerably
constrained’. Several coalition scholars have also stressed the fact that coalition governments
are likely to reach compromises about policy, which are described in a comprehensive and
detailed coalition agreement (e.g. Strøm, Müller, & Bergman, 2008). Other so called control
mechanisms may also be implemented in coalitions in order to keep ‘check’ on the other
partners. According to this third model, here called the coalition compromise model, parties
are assumed to make compromises and influence policy according to their joint preferences.
On the basis of these three coalition models, we can derive specific predictions about
partisanship and biotechnical policy-making, which are presented below. Before doing so, we
briefly review the previous literature in the field of biotechnical regulation.
Previous research on biotechnical regulation
The issue we study here bans for biotech crops touches not only a policy area of interest
for green parties and their supporters because of its relevance for environmental protection,
but is also relevant for parties that represent the interests of citizens working in the
agricultural sector and of religious segments in the electorate (e.g., Legge & Durant, 2010).
Tosun (2014) argues that, besides green parties, parties from the religious and agrarian party
families should also have incentives to implement a ban for genetically modified organisms
Green parties are often key allies of the anti-GMO social movements (Kurzer & Cooper,
2007; Weber, Rao, & Thomas, 2009), which implies that green parties in cabinet should
increase the likelihood of a cultivation ban.
For Christian Democratic parties, other reasons are put forth in favor of a cultivation ban.
Such parties often stress the importance of religious values and propose policies in
accordance with these values in parliament and government (see, e.g., Minkenberg, 2002;
Bale & Szczerbiak, 2008; Fink, 2008). GMOs contradict the Christian ethic of respect for
creation and harmony between nature and human beings and stressing the potential problems
of genetically modified organisms also helps to justify and to show the religious roots of
Christian parties towards the electorate and their constituents. The policy programs of the
European Peoples Party (EPP), which consists of conservative and Christian democratic
parties, stress the connection and the requirement for a balance between environmental
protection, research and development and the goal of ensuring the integrity of creation. For
instance, the EPP action program for the election to the European parliament in 1989
mentioned that “our understanding of environmental protection reflects our Christian view of
mankind and of the human’s responsibility for creation” (EPP, 1988: 29). The EPP manifesto
of 1989 also mentions that research and technology should always reflect the integrity of
creation (EPP, 1988: 33). In their 1994 election manifesto, the EPP argues that also
developing countries should enact an economic and environmental policy that helps saving
creation (EPP, 1993: 58-59). Moreover, the section on environmental policy in the 1999 EPP
action program was entitled “integrity of creation” (EPP, 1999). Also the EPP manifestos
from the 2004, 2009 and 2014 elections for the European parliament stress sustainability and
its relevance for the integrity of creation. On that basis, we argue that the participation of
Christian Democratic parties, which are the decisive actors in the EPP, in government should
also increase the likelihood that a cultivation ban of GMOs is introduced.
Previous research has also argued that also a participation of parties from the agrarian
party family in the government is likely to lead to a ban of biotech crops. The reason for this
is the important implications the cultivation of GMOs has for agricultural production and for
the market for agricultural commodities (see Kurzer & Cooper, 2007; Konefal & Busch,
2010). Despite that agrarian parties competing for votes in West and East European states
widened their policy profile significantly over time according to quantitative analyses of
election manifestos, agrarian parties still represent the interests of the countryside and also
the economic interests of private farming, in particular of small-scale private farmers (Batory
& Sitter, 2004: 528; Linhart, 2010). In particular small-scale private farmers are less likely to
cultivate GMOs since the use of GM crops involves a technology fee, which can only be
offset from yield increases. Since one main goal of all parties and therefore also of agrarian
parties is to maximize their vote share in elections (Müller & Strøm, 1999), agrarian parties
should address the interests of their core voter clientele and aim for GMO cultivation bans
(Tosun, 2014: 368). In an empirical analysis, which focuses on cultivation of GMOs in
Central and Eastern Europe from 1995 until 2013, Tosun (2014) finds evidence for these
expectations: the presence of a green, religious or agrarian party significantly increases the
likelihood for a ban of GMOs despite EU law, however, with less robust findings for the
impact of Green parties in government.
Hypotheses about partisanship, ministers and biotechnical policy-making
We expect that partisan effects on biotechnical policy-making should be observable in all of
Europe. The question is how partisanship influences biotechnical policy-making: does it
matter which party holds a specific ministry, or is it rather the presence of a particular party
in cabinet, or the overall center-of-gravity that matters for policy output? To derive specific
hypotheses here, we rely on the three coalition governance models presented above, and
derive three main predictions, related to each of these models. In table 1, we give an
overview of these predictions, which are further elaborated on below.
***Table 1 about here***
Following Tsebelis’ (2002) veto player model, it is possible to argue that the mere presence
of a political party from the aforementioned party families in the national governments
should matter for policy-making. The argument is hence that parties should be able to act as
veto players in government and individual parties should therefore have a lasting impact on
cultivation ban policies.1 Our first hypothesis is therefore:
H1. The likelihood that an EU member state institutes a cultivation ban increases with
the participation of an Agrarian, Christian or Green party in national government.
Drawing on recent work on the impact of environmental policy positions of governments on
the number of implemented environmental policy outputs in modern democracies, we also
hypothesize that the positions of parties in coalition governments should matter for
environmental policy-making. Knill, Debus and Heichel (2010) demonstrate that it is not the
simple participation of Green or left-libertarian parties in a government or the left-right
position of government parties that matters for the number of enacted environmental policy
standards, but rather the overall degree of saliency of environmental protection of the parties
participating in government measured on the basis of statements in the election manifestos
that matters for explaining policy outputs on environmental issues. Thus, there is empirical
evidence suggesting that we gain more insights on explaining the introduction of a cultivation
ban of GMOs in EU member states if we also consider the policy area-specific position of a
(coalition) government, or its ‘center of gravity’. This argument follows from a model of
coalition policy-making, which stresses the fact that parties in coalitions make compromises
over policy, i.e. the coalition compromise model, and our second hypothesis is thus:
H2a. The likelihood that an EU member state institutes a cultivation ban for GMOs
increases the more the parties in government support protection of the environment.
However, matters are somewhat complicated here since the policy addressed here not only
covers environmental issues, but also questions related to the order of society. This is because
GMOs in some societies are seen as an “unethical disruption of the ‘natural law’” (Twadorski
& Małyska, 2012: 250). Therefore, we suggest that a specific measure of the societal position
of a government and of the weight a government attached to issues related to the order of
society should allow for a more precise explanation of the implementation of a cultivation
ban of biotech crops earlier and despite EU law. On the basis of these considerations, we
formulate the following (center-of-gravity) hypothesis:
H2b. The likelihood that an EU member state institutes a cultivation ban for GMOs
increases the more conservative the parties in government are on issues related to the
order of society.
In addition, the government parties’ views on European integration should matter for the
potential implementation of a cultivation ban for GMOs. Generally speaking in the EU, only
biotech crops that are authorized in accordance with Council Directive 90/220/EEC Directive
2001/18/EC can be cultivated. However, it should be noted that both directives give the
member states the right to invoke safeguard bans provisionally restricting or banning the use
and/or sale of that product in their territories. These safeguard bans, however, have to be
based on new scientific evidence about health or environmental hazards and are subject to
approval by the European Commission (Pollack & Shaffer, 2010). The European
Commission is very reluctant to accept the cultivation bans placed on biotech crops
authorized in the EU since she is held responsible by the World Trade Organization for the
unilateral measures adopted by her member states.2 In the past, she has tried to overturn the
bans instituted by the member states. From this it follows that the instituting of a cultivation
ban can be regarded as a politically costly step for the member states’ governments. Thus, the
ideological contestation must be very high for a government to challenge the European
Commission by instituting such a ban.
Therefore, it is conceivable that in addition to an environmental, an agricultural, and an
ethical dimension, there is a European dimension to this particular policy issue that must be
taken into account. National governments with more skeptical positions on European
integration might use the GMO issue to signal their anti-EU position towards Brussels and
towards their voters in the respective countries. We therefore present an additional center-of-
gravity hypothesis and argue that:
H2c. The likelihood that an EU member state institutes a cultivation ban for GMOs
increases the more skeptical the parties in government are on further steps on
European integration.
Even though the literature on partisan effects has mainly focused on analyzing the aggregate
representation of certain parties in cabinet, we believe that it is important to also consider the
role of individual cabinet ministers when analyzing such partisan effects. Drawing on a
ministerial discretion model of coalition governance, we suggest also considering which
parties win control over which cabinet posts. If a political party controls a cabinet office
related to a specific issue, it has the in some countries constitutionally provided power to
implement its and, thus, the ministers’ policy positions. This implies for our research question
that not only the presence of a party from a specific party family in a government or the
explicit programmatic orientation of a government should be decisive, but rather the fact
which party is able to win control over the cabinet portfolio which controls issues related to
environmental policy in general and biotechnology regulation in particular.
Related to the findings by Budge and Keman (1990) and Bäck, Debus and Dumont (2011),
we assume that parties from the family of Agrarian, Christian and Green parties are more
likely to control the ministry of the environment and/or the ministry of agriculture, which are
the cabinet offices most likely dealing with issues related to GMOs. If an Agrarian, Christian
or Green party is not only member of the cabinet, but also gains control of the Ministry of the
Environment or the Ministry of Agriculture, then we should see an earlier ban of biotech
crops. This would also provide support for the principle of ministerial discretion in the daily
process of governing in (multi-party) cabinets. Our expectation is therefore:
H3. The likelihood that an EU member state institutes a cultivation ban increases if an
Agrarian, Christian or Green party controls the Ministry of Environment or the
Ministry of Agriculture.
To sum up (see also Table 1), we thus hypothesize that a cultivation ban is more likely to be
instituted if an Agrarian, Christian or Green party participates in the national government
(H1, in line with a veto player model), if the overall position of the governing parties is in
favor of environmental protection, the more societally conservative the parties in cabinet are,
and the more skeptical towards European integration the governing parties are (H2, in line
with a coalition compromise model). In addition, we suggest that ministerial allocation
matters for biotechnical policy-making and hypothesize that a cultivation ban is more likely
to be implemented when an Agrarian, Christian or Green party controls the relevant ministry,
i.e. the ministry of environment or agriculture (H3, in line with a ministerial discretion
Method and data
To evaluate our hypotheses, we first need information describing the point in time when an
EU member state instituted a ban on the commercial cultivation of biotech crops, which
constitutes the basis of our dependent variable. Moreover, to measure our independent
variables data is required on the partisan composition of governments, the programmatic
profiles of the parties and the patterns of office allocation. We make use of several data
sources to evaluate our hypotheses, which are described below.
Our cases include 27 European states that were already or became a member of the
European Union before July 2013; Croatia is thus excluded from this analysis. Our period of
observation starts in 1996 and ends in 2013. Of course, however, the starting dates vary
across the different types of EU member states. For the EU-15 the observation period starts in
1996, for the EU-10 it begins in 2003 and for Bulgaria and Romania in 2006. As a result, the
observation begins one year before a ban could be instituted. In the case of the EU-15, this
refers to the authorization of the first GMO product for cultivation in 1997, while for the
other countries a ban was only possible after they had formally joined the EU in 2004 and
2007. In the following two subsections, we describe the data sources for the dependent and
independent variables. In addition, we present the statistical approach applied here.
The dependent variables
This analysis uses two dependent variables. The first dependent variable is the instituting of a
ban on the cultivation of the commercially most relevant GMO product: MON810 maize.
Austria banned MON810 maize in 1999, Bulgaria in 2010, France in 2008, Germany in 2009,
Greece in 2005, Hungary in 2005, Italy in 2004, Latvia in 2009, Luxembourg in 2009, and
Poland in 2013. While MON810 maize is the single most important GMO product, which is
currently cultivated in the Czech Republic, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain, it is not
the only GMO product authorized in the EU. Also, in some cases MON810 maize was not the
first GMO product that was banned in a member state. While a detailed overview over the
various bans that have been adopted by individual countries over time with respect to
different GMO products would go beyond the scope of this paper, it should be noted that
these in be found in the work by Lieberman and Gray (2006), Sabalza et al. (2011) and Tosun
Since we regard the most important decision taken by policy-makers at the national level
to concern the first time when they decide to deviate from EU rules, we need another
dependent variable that captures this aspect. The second dependent variable refers to the point
in time when the first ban on the commercial cultivation on any GMO product was instituted,
regardless of the exact specification of that product. The first ban instituted in Austria was in
1997 (Bt176 maize), in Bulgaria in 2010 (MON810), in France in 1998 (MS1 x RF1
rapeseed), in Germany in 2000 (Bt176 maize), in Greece in 1997 (Bt176 maize), in Hungary
in 2004 (MON810), in Italy in 2004 (general ban on all GMOs authorized in the EU), in
Latvia in 2009 (general ban on all GMOs authorized in the EU), in Luxembourg in 1997
(Bt176 maize), and in Poland in 2013 (MON810). It should be pointed out that the bulk of
first bans adopted by the West European member states fall within the crucial time frame of
the de facto moratorium (1999-2004) or prior to that, which underlines how consequential
this event potentially is for explaining the bans on the commerical cultivation of MON810
maize. Thus, we need to control for it when evaluating the effects of the focal explanatory
The above mentioned cultivation bans adopted by the EU member states between 1996
and 2013 represent the two dependent variables of this study. The measurement of the
dependent variables is binary taking the value 0 for each year when no cultivation ban was
adopted and 1 otherwise. This produces a dataset of yearly events. Figure 1 presents the
Nelson-Aalen cumulative hazard estimates for the two dependent variables.
***Figure 1 about here***
Explanatory variables and estimation strategy
We have compiled a dataset that not only provides information on the point in time when a
national government instituted a ban on the commercial cultivation of biotech crops, but also
additional information on cabinet partisanship and portfolio allocation in the EU member
states. In order to evaluate our hypotheses, we included information on the partisan
composition of governments, the strength of government parties and their policy positions on
environmental and societal issues. In addition, we identified on the basis of data from the
Comparative Manifesto Project (e.g. Klingemann, Volkens, Bara, Budge, & McDonald,
2006; Volkens, Bara, Budge, & McDonald, 2014) whether a party from the Agrarian,
Christian or Green party family controlled the ministry of the environment and the ministry
of agriculture within the respective cabinets.3 Information on the composition of
governments, on which party held the ministry of environment and the ministry of interior,
and on how many seats the respective parties held in parliament were mainly obtained from
the ParlGov database (Manow & Döring, 2013).4 These data were supplemented by internet-
based research that relied heavily on the European Journal of Political Research Data
Yearbook and on entries by the websites of the respective national governments.
While this information allows for evaluating our first and third hypotheses, more detailed
information is required regarding the measurement of the policy-area specific positions
governments adopt on the policy dimensions in focus, i.e. the center of gravity of the
cabinets. Since the CMP dataset covers issue saliencies only (see, e.g., Laver, 2001; Benoit,
Mikhaylov, & Laver, 2009), we need to identify a data source that provides information on
the positions of parties on the respective issues under study. One such source are expert
surveys that differentiate between several policy areas like the ones by Laver and Hunt
(1992), Steenbergen and Marks (2007) or by Benoit and Laver (2006). We refer to the Benoit
and Laver (2006) survey, conducted in the time period between 2003 and 2004 and, thus,
during the middle of our observation period.5 Benoit and Laver (2006) provide information
on the position on a societal policy dimension measured by a dimension related to issues
like abortion, homosexuality, and euthanasia –, on an environmental policy dimension and on
a country-specific dimension that differentiates between positive and negative stances on
European integration. The environmental policy dimension emphasizes the relationship
between the environment and the economy, and differentiates between support of protection
of the environment, even at the cost of economic growth, and support of economic growth,
even at the cost of damage to the environment.
On the basis of the Benoit and Laver (2006) policy position data and the dataset on the
partisan composition of governments and the seat share of the governing parties (the seat
share contributed to the overall number of parliamentary seats controlled by the government),
we calculated the government’s ‘center of gravity’ on societal, environmental and EU
integration policy (Gross & Sigelman, 1984). This allows for evaluating hypotheses 2a-c,
focusing on the impact of the policy positions of the cabinet as a whole on biotechnical
In addition to these main explanatory variables, a number of control variables are included
in the estimation models, which are all time-varying. The variable share of employment in the
agricultural sector assesses the economic importance of agriculture. The data is taken from
the World Development Indicators. The variable new EU member state distinguishes between
‘old’ EU member states (that joined the EU in 1995 or earlier) and the ‘new’ EU member
states (the Central and Eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007). It is
analytically promising or even necessary to differentiate between the old and the new EU
member states since the EU had put significant pressure on the latter to demonstrate
conformity with European rules and guidelines when they still were accession candidates.
We then include the variable cultivation to check whether the member states commercially
cultivate MON810 as reported by the Monsanto Company on an annual basis. In fact, despite
being authorized in 1998, the cultivation of MON810 only started in 2003 in Spain and was
then extended to a handful other member states. The commercial cultivation of MON810
maize can have two different effects. First, it can indicate that there are interests that seek to
maintain the legal status of GMOs in an EU member state. Second, a government can be
more likely to consider banning the cultivation of GMOs if there are any GMO products
cultivated on its territory. Any ban needs to be justified vis-à-vis the European Commission,
so a rational policy maker is expected to evade these costs if there is no threat arising from
GMOs. This variable is lagged by one year to make sure that there is no simultaneity between
the year in which a ban is adopted and the cultivation of GMOs.
In addition, we include a dummy variable that indicates which member states urged the
European Commission to institute a moratorium on the authorization of new GMOs in 1999.
This variable seeks to capture a long-lasting and particularly strong anti-GMO position of
some EU member states. Finally, and along the same lines, we control for whether the ban on
MON810 was the first cultivation ban instituted by a national government or whether it
succeeded an already existing ban for another GMO product (prior ban). Table 2 provides an
overview of the variation in our independent variables.
***Table 2 about here***
Since we here focus on predicting when a specific ban was implemented, the analysis is
based on event history models. Such models are useful when the dependent variable of
interest is the time to the occurrence of an event, which in our case is the implementation of a
GMO ban. We rely on the Cox proportional hazards model, which focuses on the relationship
between the dependent variable and the covariates of theoretical interest but leaves the shape
of the transition rate as unspecified as possible (see Box-Steffensmeier & Jones, 2004).
Empirical analysis
We estimate five models in order to evaluate our hypotheses developed above. The results are
presented in table 3. The first model includes the control variables only as a base model. It
covers, first, the countries’ share of employment in the agricultural sector in a given year.
This allows for assessing the economic importance of the agricultural sector for the economy
of the countries under investigation. Model 1 also covers cultivation and moratorium, and
includes a dummy variable that differentiates between old and new member states. As the
results of the survival analysis show, model 1 has a very low explanatory power. Except for
the variable that provides information on whether a country already adopted a ban on GMOs,
none of the effects of the other independent variables reach statistical significance.
***Table 3 about here***
Only after introducing political variables, on which our hypotheses focus, the statistical
models reach a higher degree of explanatory power and provide more coefficients for our
independent variables that are significantly different from zero. Model 2 includes information
on the question whether a party from the Agrarian, Christian or Green party family is
included in the government. In line with our first hypothesis, we find that the simple presence
of a Christian party in the cabinet results in an increase of the odds for instituting a ban.
While this finding is line with the ones found by Tosun (2014), we find no significant impact
of the governmental presence of a Green or Agrarian party. This effect indicates that the
simple presence of a Christian Democratic party in a national government matters for policy-
making in an area that is highly influenced by ethical and moral issues. There are, however,
no statistically significant effects of Agrarian and Green parties in cabinet across all five
regression models in Table 2.
Models 3, 4 and 5 introduce variables that cover information on the government’s center
of gravity in terms of their positions on environmental, societal and European policy. The
effects of these variables are, however, not statistically significant. This indicates that neither
a government with more conservative or traditional positions on societal issues nor a
government that places environmental protection over economic growth is more likely to
implement a ban on GMOs. Also the position of a government regarding further steps on
European integration does not matter for the likelihood that a country implements a ban on
genetic modified crops in the 27 European countries under study.
While these findings do not support hypotheses 2 a-c, we find evidence in models 4 and 5
that the control over the ministry of the environment or the ministry of agriculture by parties
from one of the three party families matters for a ban of GMOs.6 Once a party from the
Christian Democratic family controls the ministry of the environment or the ministry of
agriculture, which we consider to be decisive for handling the issue of GMOs in a cabinet, the
respective country is much more likely to implement a cultivation ban for biotech crops.
Combining this finding with the effect of the presence of a Christian Democratic party in
cabinet suggests that parties from this party family are highly likely to ban genetic modified
crops as early as possible and even when in conflict with EU law. This provides some support
for the ministerial discretion model. We do, however, not find a similar pattern in case of
Agrarian parties when they win control over the ministry of the environment: the control of
the Ministry of Environment by an agrarian party does not have the same effect as in the case
of Christian Democratic parties controlling this ministry.
Table 4 presents the results of the same regression models, but with the inclusion of a
variable that provides information on whether the ban on MON810 maize was the first ban
ever instituted or whether it was preceded by a ban on another biotech product. In this way
we seek to take into account potential path-dependent processes, for which we, however, find
no empirical support. As the results reveal, there is still evidence that the control of a
Christian democratic party over the ministry of the environment results in a higher likelihood
that a country introduces an early ban of GMOs (model 4). There are, however, no effects
when we shift our focus on the ministry of agriculture and the control of this portfolio by a
Christian democratic party.
***Table 4 about here***
Finally, we analyze the determinants of the first ban ever instituted on a GMO product. We
find that at least on the basis of the third model presented in Table 5 – the presence of a
Christian democratic party in the national government matters: if a Christian democratic party
is represented in the national government, then the chances significantly increase that an EU
member state will implement a ban on GMOs. We interpret this finding as one that indicates
that the instituting of cultivation bans on GMOs follows a path-dependent process.
***Table 5 about here***
These findings demonstrate that parties matter in biotechnical regulation, a policy issue
related to several policy areas. Moreover, it also has implications for the degree of
responsiveness between the simple presence of parties from specific party families and the
policy output of a government: voters can be fairly certain that the presence of a party in
our case a Christian Democratic party results in a ban of GMOs. However, the effects are
not completely robust, and the fact that two variables indicating the countries that supported
the instituting of a moratorium in 1999 yields robust effects across all model specifications
(see table 3) suggests that policy-making on GMOs tends to remain relatively stable over
Concluding remarks
The aim of this paper was to study the determinants of policy-making on a complex policy
issue that is not only related to environmental, but also to ethical concerns and agriculture. By
studying the determinants of the likelihood that a ban on biotech crops will be implemented,
we suggested, in line with previous work on partisan effects, that the presence of parties that
reject GMOs should increase the likelihood of a ban of GMOs. Furthermore, we argued that
the control by an Agrarian, Christian Democratic or Green party over the key cabinet office
that is related the GMOs the ministry of the environment should increase the likelihood
that a ban of biotech crops is implemented. Finally, we relied on the findings in recent studies
that have shown the importance of referring to policy-area specific measures of the
government’s ‘center of gravity’ on the outcome of the legislative and political process.
Our findings show that in the case of biotech crops a ban was much more likely if a
Christian Democratic party was in government and/or in charge of the ministry of the
environment or agriculture. There is, surprisingly, no evidence that the governmental
presence of Agrarian and Green parties matters. In contrast, the effect of Christian parties’
government membership is quite robust, suggesting that there is a ‘cultural’ component to the
debate on GMOS that needs to be taken into account (see Fink, 2008). This implies that
‘parties do matterfor policy-making, also in case of very complex policy issues that are
related to several different policy areas, which could be characterized as a sort of ‘least likely
case’ for finding support for a partisan hypothesis. Our findings indicate that Christian
Democratic parties in particular are prone to design policies on these issues (see Minkenberg,
2002), which sets incentives for a more detailed study on the intra-party ‘handling’ of
environmental policies in general and ethical issues like the acceptance or non-acceptance of
GMOs by Christian Democratic parties in particular.
While the latter aspect is related to the patterns of intra-party programmatic position-
taking in one specific party family, further incentives exist with regard to the impact of
different patterns of cabinet governance on the content of policy outputs. Since the
institutional foundations of decision-making in cabinets varies across Europe some
constitutions attach more agenda-setting power to the Prime Minister, while others give
ministers or the cabinet as a whole more competencies in the decision-making process (see,
e.g., Andeweg 2000) future research should look at the impact of the partisan affiliation of
the PM and the policy goals mentioned in the coalition agreement. Such agreements offer
clearly defined statements on the negotiated policy compromises and, thus, the prospective
policies of the government during the following legislative term (see e.g. Müller & Strøm,
If the ‘cabinet principle’ dominates in a country, then the likelihood should increase that
not only the simple presence of a party in the government matters for policy outcomes, but
also the preferences of other government parties, which could be depending on their
bargaining power included in the coalition agreement. Adopting such a perspective would
help us to gain a deeper understanding of the decision-making process on specific and
complex issues in (coalition) governments like the bans of GMOs. Hence, we suggest that
when analyzing the effect of the partisan profile of the cabinet minister on environmental
policy, we should also take into account that we may be dealing with very different
institutional contexts. One feature that is especially important to consider when analyzing
partisan effects of ministers is the institutional degree of ministerial autonomy. As described
above, ministers should always have some degree of discretion, but this type of institutional
feature is likely to vary across countries, that is in some countries, ministers have
considerable discretion to act on his or her own, whereas in other countries, this is not the
case. Partisan effects of ministers should thus be especially pronounced in contexts where the
ministers are not highly constrained by the PM or the cabinet as a whole.
Moreover, there are incentives to study the impact of exogenous shocks or events on the
implementation of bans on issues related to biotech crops (Carmines & Stimson, 1986; Laver
& Shepsle, 1998). Once critical research is published on these issues and is communicated by
the media to a broader public, citizens might attach more weight to these issues and to the
solving of problems caused by GMOs (e.g., Boydstun, 2013). If parties and their
representatives in parliament and government are vote-seeking actors, they should do
everything to satisfy the interests of the voters that resulted from an exogenous shock related
to GMOs, which would also increase policy responsiveness and, therefore, also the quality of
a representative democracy (see, e.g., Powell 2004). In these cases, parties from the Christian,
but also from the Agrarian and Green parties should be even more likely to implement new,
critical policies regarding the use biotech crops (Brettschneider, 1996). Otherwise they risk
losing credibility among their core voter clientele and, therefore, votes in forthcoming
elections. However, we know from studies focusing on veto points and veto players in
modern democracies that specific institutional barriers must be taken before a new policy is
implemented (Tsebelis, 2002). It would be interesting to see how parties and their
representatives behave after an exogenous shock related to the GMOs and how they tackle
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Figure 1. Nelson-Aalen curves for the two dependent variables (left panel: cultivation bans
on MON810; right panel: first cultivation bans)
0.00 0.25 0.50 0.75 1.00
0510 15 20
Years to ban
0.00 0.25 0.50 0.75 1.00
0510 15 20
Years to ban
Note: In the left panel the observation begins in 1997 for the old EU member states and in
the right panel in 1996.
Table 1. Predictions on GMO bans derived from three coalition governance models
Coalition governance model
Specific predictions
Veto player model Individual parties in
government can
veto/implement policies
GMO ban more likely to be implemented when…
Greens are in cabinet
Christian Dem. are in cabinet
Agrarians are in cabinet
Coalition compromise model The aggregate preferences
in the cabinet matter for
policy implementation
GMO ban more likely to be implemented when
the cabinet centre of gravity is…
More pro-environmental
More socially conservative
More skeptical to EU integration
Ministerial discretion model The preferences of the
party controlling the
relevant ministry matters
for policy implementation
GMO ban more likely to be implemented when
Greens, Christian Democrats or Agrarians hold
post as…
Minister of Environment
Minister of Agriculture
Table 2. Descriptive statistics
Party family in cabinet
Green party
Christian party
Agrarian party
Cabinet center of gravity
Position environmental policy
Position European integration
Position societal policy
Minister of Environment
Green party
Christian party
Agrarian party
Minister of Agriculture
Green party
Christian party
Agrarian party
Share of employees in the agricultural sector
New member state
Prior ban
Table 3. Event history analyses of the determinants of cultivation bans on MON810 maize (1997–2013)
Model 1
Model 2
Model 3
Model 4
Model 5
Party family in cabinet
Green party
Christian party
Agrarian party
Cabinet center of gravity
Position environmental policy
Position European integration
Position societal policy
Minister of Environment
Christian party
Agrarian party
Minister of Agriculture
Christian party
Share of employees in the
agricultural sector
New EU member state
pseudo R2
Remarks: The dependent variable refers to changes implying a partial or complete cultivation ban for MON810 maize. Reported are hazard ratios: a hazard ratio larger than 1
indicates a positive relationship and a hazard ratio smaller than 1 a negative relationship; t statistics in parentheses.
* = p < 0.1; ** = p < 0.05; *** = p < 0.01.
Table 4. Event history analyses of the determinants of cultivation bans on MON810 maize with prior ban (1997–2013)
Model 1
Model 2
Model 3
Model 4
Model 5
Party family in cabinet
Green party
Christian party
Agrarian party
Cabinet center of gravity
Position environmental policy
Position European integration
Position societal policy
Minister of Environment
Christian party
Agrarian party
Minister of Agriculture
Christian party
Share of employees in the
agricultural sector
New member state
Prior ban
pseudo R2
Remarks: The dependent variable refers to changes implying a partial or complete cultivation ban for MON810 maize. Reported are hazard ratios: a hazard ratio larger than 1
indicates a positive relationship and a hazard ratio smaller than 1 a negative relationship; t statistics in parentheses.
* = p < 0.1; ** = p < 0.05; *** = p < 0.01.
Table 5. Event history analyses of the determinants of the first cultivation bans on GMOs ever adopted (1996–2013)
Model 1
Model 2
Model 3
Model 4
Model 5
Party family in cabinet
Green party
Christian party
Agrarian party
Cabinet center of gravity
Position environmental policy
Position European integration
Position societal policy
Minister of Environment
Christian party
Agrarian party
Minister of Agriculture
Christian party
New member state
Share of employees in the
agricultural sector
pseudo R2
Remarks: The dependent variable refers to changes implying a partial or complete cultivation of GMOs ever adopted. Reported are hazard ratios: a hazard ratio larger than 1
indicates a positive relationship and a hazard ratio smaller than 1 a negative relationship; t statistics in parentheses.
* = p < 0.1; ** = p < 0.05; *** = p < 0.01
1 A potential problem with this argument is if we (following Tsebelis, 2002) expect that status quo policy is
more likely when parties in cabinet have the ability to veto certain policy reform proposals. There may of course
be other reasons for single parties to be able to influence policy in certain areas, particularly if these issues are
highly salient for the specific party (Greens/Christian Democrats/Agrarians), but not for their coalition partners
then these parties are more likely to be able to push through such policy-making decisions, such as the
implementation of a cultivation ban. That is, the effect of the presence of specific parties in cabinet may have
more to do with bargaining between parties with different saliency profiles than with a veto player mechanism.
These mechanisms are however difficult to disentangle.
2 Argentina, Canada and the United States found the cultivation bans to violate international law and filed a
complaint with the World Trade Organisation, which, in turn, asked the European Commission to take
appropriate measures (Skogstad, 2011). From this, it follows that the European Commission does not approve of
cultivation bans on biotech crops authorised in the EU and is willing to take legal steps against the member
states that it concerns.
3 In some cases, the minister of the environment and the minister of agriculture did not belong to any party. In
this case, the minister was not allocated to any party family.
4 There is no ministry of environment in some countries and/or some time periods. Accordingly, we identified
the ministry that comes closest to environmental affairs in the specific country and time period.
5 While expert surveys bear the problem that they provide only positions and saliencies of political parties at one
point in time, so that changes in the preferences of parties over time cannot be covered, the Chapel Hill expert
surveys were performed at several points in time. However, the positions of parties on the environmental policy
dimension were only measured in the 2010 survey (see Bakker, de Vries, Edwards, Hooghe, Jolly, Marks, Polk,
Rovny, Steenbergen, & Vachudova, 2013), which is why we do not use these data. Naturally, there are a number
of parties missing due to the longer time span of this study. In this case, we applied a two-step procedure. First,
we determined whether a missing party was a split of or later merged into another party, which itself was
included in the expert survey. If this was the case, the party was assigned the code of its predecessor or
successor. Information on party splits and mergers was also taken from the ParlGov database (Manow &
Döring, 2013). Second, if the party had no (identifiable) predecessor or successor, it was given the code of a
comparable party in the respective party system. A comparable party is one that belongs to the same party
family. Classification of parties into party families was again obtained with ParlGov (Manow & Döring, 2013;
see also Table A1 in the appendix).
6 Since Green parties almost always control the ministry of the environment once in government in the countries
and time span under study in this paper, we cannot include a variable in model 5 that provides information on
whether the ministry of the environment was led by a politician from a Green party or not. A similar problem
applies in case of agrarian parties: once in cabinet, agrarian parties almost always win control over the ministry
of agriculture.
... Although it is not considered as a dominant issue in political campaigning such as immigration or economic issues, scholars widely debate about party behaviour in this field. In particular, political parties are expected to talk about the issue due to public interest and to take particularly skeptical stances towards GMOs (Bäck, Debus, and Tosun 2015;Kurzer and Cooper 2007;Mühlböck and Tosun 2018;Tosun 2014) in order to avoid protests from their electorate and environmentalist groups. Such critical positions contrast with those of the scientific community, which largely support GMOs and are optimistic about their benefits regarding food and international food shortages, agricultural and medical purposes (Carzoli et al. 2018;Curtin et al. 2018;Landrum, Hallman, and Jamieson 2019;National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2016;Nicolia et al. 2014;Wang et al. 2014;Wree and Sauer 2016). ...
... While scholars discuss the positions of parties towards GMOs and assume particularly hostile attitudes that do not necessarily reflect scientifically informed stances, we so far lack systematic empirical knowledge about the development of party positions in this regard. The actual policy agendas of different party families in Western Europe have hardly been investigated (except for certain Green parties) and the same accounts for factors influencing party policy positions on GMOs (Bäck, Debus, and Tosun 2015;Hartung and Hörisch 2018;Mühlböck and Tosun 2018;Kurzer and Cooper 2007). This paper aims to map the salience of GMO issues and the positions of different party families in the broader western European landscape testing whether widespread assumptions about hostile positions and programmatic behaviour can be confirmed empirically. ...
... For instance, ministers of the Greens in Germany have adopted a symbolic anti-GMO stance in regional governments (Hartung and Hörisch 2018). More generally, Green parties promote a restrictive biotechnology agenda because GMOs are considered a potential threat to environment protection and hence, to the main political aim the party family is pursuing (Bäck, Debus, and Tosun 2015). As a result, Green parties have been the natural ally of anti-GMO movements in Europe (Bäck, Debus, and Tosun 2015;Klaus, Rao, and Thomas 2009). ...
Social and environmental scientists usually argue that political parties hold hostile positions towards GMOs, yet we are confronted with a lack of systematic comparative analyses in the West European context. Conducting a quantitative content analysis of 265 election manifestos in seven Western European countries from 1990 until 2020, we test this assumption and explore the salience of GMOs in election manifestos and the positions of political parties on this domain. Our findings reveal that GMOs are neither a particular salient nor ignored issue by political parties and that most party families do tend to reject GMOs. Mainstream parties are more likely to talk about GMOs and to take a critical stance during periods of high mobilization of anti-GMO movements. Additionally, we hypothesize that the presence of a Green party in the national party system may make a difference. The findings provide insights into mainstream parties’ behaviour on niche issues and information for the scientific community about how political parties may become less hostile towards GMOs.
... aiming to protect God's Creation (see also Töller 2017). Moreover, considering policy-making on genetically modified crops, Christian-conservative parties take a much more cautious position than their general market-friendly position would imply (Bäck et al. 2015). ...
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Research on party differences in environmental policy, so far, has developed ambiguous results. While we, generally, assume parties to make a difference in policy-making, some scholars point to party indifferences in environmental issues. Thus, whether and how parties take different positions on the issue and whether their positions impact environmental policy output and outcome is still up for debate. To further our knowledge of party positions in this area, we propose to include parties’ perceptions of environmental problems when analysing their general stances. Based on pertinent policy analysis literature, we differentiate seven dimensions of environmental problems and develop an approach that we apply to party manifestos. By analysing the platforms of 20 parties from three European countries, we illustrate its potential contributions to established measurements based on CHES and CMP data. The analysis indicates that parties differ considerably concerning their problem perception ranging from simple to holistic views on environmental policy. Importantly, we can highlight some differences between parties otherwise omitted in existing measurements. Overall, our inquiry shows that some parties, e.g., Green parties, coherently show a holistic problem perception while others, e.g., Liberals, differ considerably, casting doubt on the assumption of clear-cut party family positions.
... While previous studies on ministerial policy-making predominantly focus on one policy issue (e.g. unemployment generosity) (see Alexiadou, 2015;Bäck et al., 2015;Becher, 2010;Martin & Vanberg, 2020), we provide a broader focus and analyze reforms in the social and economic policy domains, covering 11 policy areas. ...
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One of the most important decisions coalition partners make when forming a government is the division of ministries. Ministerial portfolios provide the party in charge with considerable informational and agenda-setting advantages, which parties can use to shape policies according to their preferences. Oversight mechanisms in parliaments play a central role in mitigating ministerial policy discretion, allowing coalition partners to control each other even though power has been delegated to individual ministers. However, we know relatively little about how such mechanisms influence the agenda-setting and gatekeeping powers of ministers and how much influence minister parties have on policy output relative to the government as a whole in different institutional settings. We fill this gap by analyzing original data on over 2000 important social and economic policy reform measures adopted in nine Western European countries over 20 years, based on a coding of more than 1200 country reports issued by the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). We find that parliaments with strong oversight powers constrain the agenda-setting capacity of minister parties but have limited impact on their gatekeeping capacity. Our findings have important implications for our understanding of policy-making and democratic accountability.
... It has been shown that parties that proclaim a stronger environmental policy in their programmes enforce stronger environmental protection when they are in charge of government (Leinaweaver & Thomson, 2016), which occurs more frequently with left-wing parties than with right-wing ones (Carter, 2013;Knill, Debus, & Heichel, 2010). Regarding genetically modified organisms, differences between political parties do not seem to follow a leftright orientation, but can be explained by following party families, as Christian Democrats banned the cultivation of these plants more often than agricultural parties or even the green parties (Bäck, Debus, & Tosun, 2015;Tosun, 2011). In general, parties react to shifts within the electorate by readjusting their own position (Adams, 2012). ...
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While the partisan theory has already rendered initial insight on whether political parties can make a difference in environmental policy, only little is known about their influence on forest policy. This article attempts to reveal the role of green, left‐wing and right‐wing parties in the case of German Natura 2000 policy. By testing whether nature conservation or forest interests are strongly supported by the government policy outputs, we test the influence of the different parties that were part of 62 governments from 2004 to 2018 in 16 German Bundesländer. The results show that the German left‐wing parties take up the ideas of the nature conservation sector, while right‐wing parties foster typical forest interests. Furthermore, right‐wing parties very often maintain the policy status quo instead of making policy changes so that the implementation of the biodiversity goal of Natura 2000 often is postponed. The German Green party does not foster nature conservation interests more strongly than the SPD. Coalitions between right‐wing parties increase the chance for policy outputs that tend to favour forest interests.
... Such ambivalent arguments have led scholars to study whether policy makers' environmental policy preferences cut across the left-right spectrum of party competition and whether they influence environmental policy making (Bäck et al. 2015;Carter 2013;Dalton 2009;Facchini et al. 2017;Jahn 2016;Neumayer 2003Neumayer , 2004Schulze 2014). Interestingly, for climate policy making more specifically, the empirical evidence is fairly divided. ...
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Domestic policies are the cornerstone of the new global climate governance architecture. However, what motivates vote-seeking politicians to pursue climate policies remains remarkably unclear, as the climate politics literature suggests that climate policies are usually not perceived as a vote winner. The present article revisits this issue and argues that a better understanding of the relationship between electoral competition and climate policy making requires taking into account differences both in party ideologies and in policy characteristics. Studying twenty-nine democracies between 1990 and 2016, the analysis finds that climate policy production overall tends to increase as the election approaches due to increases in “soft” policies, such as subsidies, research grants, and information instruments, and relatively stable production rates of “hard” policies like taxes and regulations over the electoral term. Regarding partisan politics, left governments are found to produce more hard, but not more soft, climate policies than center and right governments, especially before elections. This suggests that partisan and electoral incentives are important reference points in the fight against climate change.
... Despite the fact that scientific research conducted on GMO products found them no more hazardous than conventional alternatives [17,18] and the production of extensive public regulation [19][20][21], consumer wariness about GMO products persists in many countries [22,23]. The attitude persisted even when the so-called "second generation" of value-oriented GMO products was released and consumers could benefit from improved nutritional properties of biotech food [24]. ...
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In this paper, we investigated educated millennials’ evaluation of credence attributes in food products containing genetically modified organisms (GMO products). Our goal is to assess whether beliefs about GMO products are determined by scientific knowledge alone or if they are affected by other factors such as trust in information providers and use of social media. The focus on millennials is motivated by the increasing relevance of this social group in the public debate and by their extensive use of social media. We surveyed a sample of 215 Italian college students, confronting them with questions about safety, environmental impact and ethical issues in GMO product consumption. Using an ordered probit regression model, we found that educated millennials build their beliefs using a mix of scientific knowledge and trust in information providers. The role of the two drivers depended on the issue considered. Scientific knowledge drove beliefs in health claims, while trust in information providers was a driving factor in almost all claims. After controlling for trust effects, we did not find evidence of impact of confidence in the reliability of traditional and social media on beliefs. This result contradicts previous literature.
Political parties are crucial in crafting effective national climate policies in democratic states. At the same time, there is a practical and academic debate of whether political parties matter for policy output. This article speaks to this debate by investigating the link between what parties say and what parties do with respect to environmental issues. More concretely, it analyzes whether there is a connection between the degree of environmentalism expressed in parties’ electoral manifestos and national environmental policy output. Theoretically, the article draws on existing research on program-to-policy linkages in general and for environmental issues specifically to argue that saliency of environmentalism in party manifestos shapes more stringent environmental policies. This argument is empirically tested by combining data on policy stringency with data on manifesto contents for 28 countries for the period 1990–2015. The findings corroborate the main hypothesis, which has implications for understanding the overall potential for political parties to structure national environmental politics. The article concludes by sketching broader implications for research on parties’ ability to shape national environmental policy across political systems, and across partisan ideologies.
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Do parties matter in environmental politics? Partisan theory assumes that the party composition of the government should systematically affect the policies adopted. As one of the most important theories in policy research, it is also central to environmental policy research. However, its application to environmental policy raises a number of problems. This paper first presents the roots and basic assumptions of partisan theory and then identifies important problem areas of its application to environmental policy. The main problem is that the core conflict of environmental politics, the conflict between economy and ecology, unlike core conflicts in other policy fields, cannot be easily mapped on the right-left axis and is therefore not clearly reflected in our party systems (cleavage problem). This also results in rather inconsistent empirical findings concerning the existence or non-existence of party effects on environmental policy (empirical problem). Another problem is that studies of partisan politics in environmental policy often use environmental quality or performance (rather than policies) as the dependent variable, while its relationship with policies often remains unexplained (“dependent variable” problem). Finally, applying partisan theory to environmental policy also raises the problem of singular causality, which consists in the (often questionable) assumption that party politics alone can explain outcomes. The paper discusses these problems and presents solutions at the conceptual, theoretical, and methodological levels. Keywords Partisan theory · Environmental policy · Cleavages · Party families
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Zusammenfassung Waldnaturschutz ist ein umwelt- und klimarelevantes Politikfeld, das durch starke Konflikte zwischen Schutz- und Nutzinteressen geprägt ist. Der Beitrag untersucht anhand zentraler Konflikte, inwieweit die Tätigkeit der Landesregierungen den konfligierenden Interessen des Naturschutz- und des Forstsektors entsprechen, und welchen Einfluss unterschiedliche politische Parteien darauf haben. Damit leistet er einen empirischen Beitrag zur Parteiendifferenztheorie in einem wenig erforschten Feld. Die Waldpolicies zwischen 2002 und 2020 wurden nach Legislaturperioden erhoben, für die jeweils bezogen auf die Sektorinteressen ein Positionswert ermittelt wurde. Der Vergleich dieser Werte erlaubt es, Politikwandel zu identifizieren. Zur Messung des Parteieneinflusses werden Regierungsbeteiligungen und Ressortzuständigkeiten herangezogen. Im Ergebnis zeigt sich, dass die Waldpolicies überwiegend forstlich orientiert sind, jedoch eine starke Tendenz Richtung Naturschutz zu verzeichnen ist. Naturschutzorientierten Politikwandel hat es in nahezu allen Bundesländern gegeben, in wenigen Fällen auch forstorientierten. Die Grünen haben entscheidend zum Politikwandel beigetragen, in geringerem Maße auch die SPD und in einigen Fällen CDU/CSU, die jedoch überwiegend für den Erhalt des Status quo eintraten. Damit ist eine deutliche Parteiendifferenz feststellbar. Die Messung des Parteieneinflusses durch die Ressortzuständigkeit hat sich für das stark durch ministerielle Kompetenzen geprägte Politikfeld als geeignet erwiesen. Die Parteizugehörigkeit der Minister*innen zeigt sich als bedeutender Faktor für die Policy-Orientierung des Regierungshandelns im Waldnaturschutz.
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Social media is gradually building an online information environment regarding health. This environment is filled with many types of users’ emotions regarding food safety, especially negative emotions that can easily cause panic or anger among the population. However, the mechanisms of how it affects users’ emotions have not been fully studied. Therefore, from the perspective of communication and social psychology, this study uses the content analysis method to analyze factors affecting social media users’ emotions regarding food safety issues. In total, 371 tweet samples of genetically modified food security in Sina Weibo (similar to Twitter) were encoded, measured, and analyzed. The major findings are as follows: (1) Tweet account type, tweet topic, and emotion object were all significantly related to emotion type. Tweet depth and objectivity were both positively affected by emotion type, and objectivity had a greater impact. (2) Account type, tweet topic, and emotion object were all significantly related to emotion intensity. When the depths were the same, emotion intensity became stronger with the decrease in objectivity. (3) Account type, tweet topic, emotion object, and emotion type were all significantly related to a user’s emotion communication capacity. Tweet depth, objectivity, and user’s emotion intensity were positively correlated with emotion communication capacity. Positive emotions had stronger communication capacities than negative ones, which is not consistent with previous studies. These findings help us to understand both theoretically and practically the changes and dissemination of user’s emotions in a food safety and health information environment.
This book introduces a new hypothesis concerning the formation and survival of coalition governments in Western European parliamentary democracies, the policy horizon hypothesis. The book finds support for the hypothesis in a wide array of evidence, including findings based on a new survey of experts in West European political systems.
Policymaking by coalition governments creates a classic principal-agent problem. Coalitions are comprised of parties with divergent preferences who are forced to delegate important policymaking powers to individual cabinet ministers, thus raising the possibility that ministers will attempt to pursue policies favored by their own party at the expense of their coalition partners. What is going to keep ministers from attempting to move policy in directions they favor rather than sticking to the "coalition deal"? We argue that parties will make use of parliamentary scrutiny of "hostile" ministerial proposals to overcome the potential problems of delegation and enforce the coalition bargain. Statistical analysis of original data on government bills in Germany and the Netherlands supports this argument. Our findings suggest that parliaments play a central role in allowing multiparty governments to solve intracoalition conflicts.
Parliamentary democracy is the most common way of organizing delegation and accountability in contemporary democracies. Yet knowledge of this type of regime has been incomplete and often unsystematic. Delegation and Accountability in Parliamentary Democracies offers new conceptual clarity on the topic. Taking principal-agent theory as its framework, the work illustrates how a variety of apparently unrelated representation issues can now be understood. This procedure allows scholarship to move well beyond what have previously been cloudy and confusing debates aimed at defining the virtues and perils of parliamentarism. This new empirical investigation includes all 17 West European parliamentary democracies. These countries are compared in a series of cross-national tables and figures, and 17 country chapters provide a wealth of information on four discrete stages in the delegation process: delegation from voters to parliamentary representatives, delegation from parliament to the prime minister and cabinet, delegation within the cabinet, and delegation from cabinet ministers to civil servants. Each chapter illustrates how political parties serve as bonding instruments, which align incentives and permit citizen control of the policy process. This is complemented by a consideration of external constraints, such as courts, central banks, corporatism, and the European Union, which can impinge on national-level democratic delegation. The concluding chapters go on to consider how well the problems of delegation and accountability are solved in these countries. Delegation and Accountability in Parliamentary Democracies provides an unprecedented guide to contemporary European parliamentary democracies. As democratic governance is transformed at the dawn of the twenty-first century, it illustrates the important challenges faced by the parliamentary democracies of Western Europe.
Coalition governments are the norm in most of the world's parliamentary democracies. Because these governments are comprised of multiple political parties, they are subject to tensions that are largely absent under single-party government. The pressures of electoral competition and the necessity of delegating substantial authority to ministers affiliated with specific parties threaten the compromise agreements that are at the heart of coalition governance. The central argument of this book is that strong legislative institutions play a critical role in allowing parties to deal with these tensions and to enforce coalition bargains. Based on an analysis of roughly 1,300 government bills across five democracies (Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, and the Netherlands), the book paints a detailed picture of the treatment of government legislation in contemporary parliaments. Two central contributions emerge. First, the book forces a reconsideration of the common perception that legislatures are largely irrelevant institutions in European democracies. The data presented here make a compelling case that parliaments that feature strong committee systems play an influential role in shaping policy. Second, the book contributes to the field of coalition governance. While scholars have developed detailed accounts of the birth and death of coalitions, much less is known about the manner in which coalitions govern between these bookend events. This book contributes to a richer understanding of how multiparty governments make policy.
Here is an accessible, up-to-date guide to event history analysis for researchers and advanced students in the social sciences. The foundational principles of event history analysis are discussed and ample examples are estimated and interpreted using standard statistical packages, such as STATA and S-Plus. Recent and critical innovations in diagnostics are discussed, including testing the proportional hazards assumption, identifying outliers, and assessing model fit. The treatment of complicated events includes coverage of unobserved heterogeneity, repeated events, and competing risks models. The authors point out common problems in the analysis of time-to-event data in the social sciences and make recommendations regarding the implementation of duration modeling methods.
▪ Abstract Policy makers in democracies have strong partisan and electoral incentives regarding the amount, nature, and timing of economic-policy activity. Given these incentives, many observers expected government control of effective economic policies to induce clear economic-outcome cycles that track the electoral calendar in timing and incumbent partisanship in character. Empirics, however, typically revealed stronger evidence of partisan than of electoral shifts in real economic performance and stronger and more persistent electoral and partisan shifts in certain fiscal, monetary, and other policies than in real outcomes. Later political-economic general-equilibrium approaches incorporated rational expectations into citizens' and policy makers' economic and political behavior to explain much of this empirical pattern, yet critical anomalies and insufficiencies remain. Moreover, until recently, both rational- and adaptive-expectations electoral-and-partisan-cycle work underemphasized crucial variation...
Are voters’ choices influenced by parties’ position-taking and communication efforts on issues during a campaign? And if so, do voters’ reactions to issues differ across parties? This article outlines a research design for the statistical identification of party-varying issue reactions within the established paradigm of the Spatial Theory of Voting. Using a special feature of conditional logit and probit models - i.e. the estimation of alternative-specific coefficients instead of fixed ‘generic’ issue distance effects - it is possible to detect asymmetrically attached issue saliencies at the level of the voters, and hence at the demand-side of politics. This strategy opens a new way to systematically combine insights obtained by saliency approaches with the Spatial Theory of Voting. An application to the German parliamentary elections from 1987 to 2009 demonstrates that it is predominantly parties taking polar positions - and, more specifically, niche parties taking polar positions - that induce such asymmetric issue voting.