Electoral Commitment and Coalition Policymaking in Latin American Legislatures with John Polga-Hecimovich.


Abstract: Although presidentialism does not provide a provision for government formation or an immediate solution to legislative conflict, parties across political systems have helped solve some of these gaps of institution design through the formation of legislative coalitions. However, not all are equally effective. Here, we argue that there are qualitative differences in the credible commitments of coalition partners that reflect the tension between parties’ needs to develop individual reputations to compete for votes and their wish to act collectively in order to pass legislation. An increase in each party’s commitment should result in improved policymaking efficiency and government stability, from (1) floor voting coalitions to (2) cabinet coalitions to (3) electoral coalitions. Using legislative success rate of executive-initiated bills and an original panel database of different government coalitions from 13 Latin American presidential democracies, we show how variation in coalition type and control over legislative seat share help dictate bill passage rates. Specifically, the success rate of executive-initiated policy is higher when associated with electoral coalitions, followed by the success of cabinet coalition governments, then floor voting coalitions. Further, the empirical precision of this model improves when controlling for democratic quality in model heterogeneity, a finding that is robust across a variety of democracy indicators. This suggests that while parties are able to informally resolve many institutional problems of presidentialism, some solutions are more effective than others.

Institutional Obstacles to Viable Competition: Distinct Informational Cues in Bolivian Legislative Speech


Abstract: Uncovering how political parties manage negotiated outcomes in multiparty democracy affects the source of informational cues that structure viable political competition. Consolidated democracy requires distinct informational cues between government and opposition parties. This manuscript isolates the effect of multiparty democracy on government-opposition distinctions. In it, I argue that shared government responsibility, though favorable to democratic transitions, is detrimental to political competition. Informational distinctions between government and opposition blur as the number of parties in government increase and the nature of the governing coalition is less coherent. To do so, I develop a measure using automated content analysis of legislative debates. It captures the coherence of legislative speeches among government party members and determines if speeches are consistently different from legislators of the opposing parties. I apply this measure to Bolivia since the 1982 transition to democracy until the second single-party majority government in 2010, where varying compositions of the governments in a presidential democracy—with fixed terms—reveals the negative effects of multiparty government arrangements on viable political competition.



Abstract: Democratic accountability relies on citizens to anticipate future governing behavior. We explore the strategic incentives for parties to shape voter expectations by generating vague or concrete campaign statements. Using an English-language dictionary we scale electoral statements from all industrialized English-speaking nations to develop a measure of concreteness. Concrete statements can create electoral risks from unfulfilled expectations. Therefore, political parties have incentives to use concrete statements to clarify reputation uncertainty associated with unclear informational cues. Political context shapes these incentives. Incumbent parties tend to dictate concrete statements to balance attributed responsibility for government outcomes and signal that they are competent managers. Strong government performance, however, reduces the incentive for incumbents to be concrete as favorable outcomes reveal competent management. Opposition parties are unconstrained from these demands. The research reveals how political parties actively manage and balance the information that voters use in order to adjust the informative value of party reputation.

TopFish: Topic-Based Analysis of Political Position in US Electoral Campaigns. Federico Nanni, Caecilia Zirn, Goran Glavas, Jason Eichorst & Simone Paolo Ponzetto. 2016. Proceedings of the International Conference on the Advances in Computational Analysis of Political Text, Dubrovnik, Croatia, 14-16 July 2016, pp. 61-67.


Abstract: In this paper we present TopFish, a multilevel computational method that integrates topic detection and political scaling and shows its applicability for a temporal aspect analysis of political campaigns (preprimary elections, primary elections, and general elections). It enables researchers to perform a range of multidimensional empirical analyses, ultimately allowing them to better understand how candidates position themselves during elections, with respect to a specific topic. The approach has been employed and tested on speeches from the 2008, 2012, and the (ongoing) 2016 US presidential campaigns.

Classifying Topics and Detecting Topic Shifts in Political Manifestos. Caecilia Zirn, Goran Glavas, Federico Nanni, Jason Eichorst & Heiner Stuckenschmidt. 2016. Proceedings of the International Conference on the Advances in Computational Analysis of Political Text, Dubrovnik, Croatia, 14-16 July 2016, pp. 88-93. 2016.


Abstract: General political topics, such as social security and foreign affairs, recur frequently in electoral manifestos across countries. The Comparative Manifesto Project aims to collect and manually code manifestos of political parties from all around the world, detecting political topics at sentence level. Since manual coding is expensive and time consuming and allows for annotation inconsistencies, in this work we present an automated approach to topical coding of political manifestos. We first independently train three sentence-level classifiers – one for detecting the topic and two for detecting topic shifts – and then combine their predictions in a global optimization setting using a Markov Logic network. Experimental results show that the proposed global model achieves high classification performance and significantly outperforms the local sentence-level topic classifier.


Abstract: This article explores the question of why coalition partners negotiate and publish coalition agreements before entering into a cabinet and why the content of these agreements varies so widely. Some scholars suggest that coalition partners draft agreements for electoral purposes, while others suggest that coalition agreements can be used to commit to policy negotiations. Although both sides of the debate have uncovered supportive evidence, the literature remains in disagreement. This article provides new organization of previous work on agreements and develops two alternative theoretical arguments about the crafting of coalition agreements. It is argued here that coalition partners consider both electoral and policy motivations during the drafting of agreements and that the dominance of one of these motivations is conditional on the degree of issue saliency and division between partners. Empirical support is found for the theoretical argument that coalition partners include low saliency issues in the coalition agreement on policy dimensions on which they are less divided, and that coalition partners include high saliency issues in the coalition agreement on policy dimensions on which they are more divided.

The Role of Party: The Legislative Consequences of Partisan Electoral Competition with Royce Carroll. 2013. Legislative Studies Quarterly. 38(1). 83-109.


Abstract: We examine the proposition that incentives for legislative organization can be explained by the nature of electoral competition. We argue that legislators in environments where parties are competitive for majority status are most likely to have delegated power to their leadership to constrain individualistic behavior within their party, which will in turn increase the spatial predictability of individual voting patterns. Using roll call votes and district-level electoral data from the U.S. state legislatures, we show empirically that increased statewide interparty competition corresponds to much more predictable voting behavior overall, while legislators from competitive districts have less predictable behavior.

The 2013 Ecuadorian Legislative and Presidential Elections with John Polga-Hecimovich. 2014. Electoral Studies. 34: 361-365


Overview: This paper describes patterns of party competition and party development during the 2013 Ecuadorian legislative and presidential elections. The overview also provides a background to major political and economic themes during the prior Correa administration and describes the institutional structure of the presidential and legislative electoral systems. See our blog post on The Monkey Cage (click here) for a more focused evaluation of party nationalization overtime in Ecuador.


Overview: Invited book review of From the Mines to the Streets: A Bolivian Activist’s Life.