Dynamics of Government-Opposition Parliamentary Relations and Public Attitudes
In this project, I will investigate the trade-offs between conflict and cooperation from both the parties’ and the voters’ perspectives.
Conflict lies at the heart of all politics. Even the most minimalist definition of democracy entails competition between candidates for public support. However, cooperation is also a central and necessary part of politics as the process by which society arrives at joint decisions. Aggregating interests and gaining majority support is inherent to politics in a modern democracy and requires cooperation within and between parties. Political parties, as the main actors in modern democracies, are therefore in a constant need to strike a balance between competition and conflict on the one hand and cooperation and compromise on the other.
Increasing dealignment, realignment, and electoral volatility push parties in opposite directions. The choices political elites make in how to interact with each other, to what extent these interactions are defined by negativity and conflict or by positivity and cooperation, affect, in turn, how citizens view political actors, institutions, and the democratic regime at large. Hence, elite political interactions may have fundamental implications for the quality and stability of representative democracy, which is why studying these interactions, their determinants, and their consequences is of utmost importance and urgency.
I intend to study not only whether parties indeed act in the manner the theory predicts them to but also whether voters indeed react as parties seem to expect them to.
In this project, I will investigate the trade-offs between conflict and cooperation from both the parties’ and the voters’ perspectives. I aim to answer two overarching questions. The first relates to the determinants of party behaviour and seeks to fill the gap in the literature regarding causes for the change in that behaviour. Therefore, the question is how changes in public opinion inputs – through polls and subnational electoral results – affect parties’ interactions in parliament. The second question pertains to the effects of said interactions on voters’ attitudes toward the government and the opposition parties. Answering both questions is akin to closing a theoretical circle: parties are theoretically assumed to act in parliament, largely because they expect voters to react to their actions in a certain way. Therefore, I intend to study not only whether parties indeed act in the manner the theory predicts them to but also whether voters indeed react as parties seem to expect them to.
To answer the research questions, I will construct a broad comparative dataset of 12 countries, spanning overall 235 years of parliamentary activity, combining information on legislative votes, parliamentary speeches, electoral results, and polling data for all parties in the respective parliaments. Furthermore, I will combine this dataset with several existing comparative surveys such as the CSES, ESS and Eurobarometer. Finally, I will conduct a cross-national survey experiment to identify the micro-mechanisms underlying voters’ responses to party activity.