Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Scholars of party strategy and government accountability rarely directly connect the priorities of parties' principals, groups seeking to influence parties, to their theories of electoral strategy, parliamentary behavior and policy outputs. I develop a theory that links parties' goals to their behaviors in three areas: electoral strategy, parliamentary behavior and government policies. I build on previous theories by focusing on the issues included in parties' electoral campaigns and their principals.
In particular, I conceptualize policy platforms as a balance between parties' policy and electoral goals. I distinguish between statements reflecting these goals by considering the effect of the electoral context on the intra-party groups' policy approach. My theory predicts that party leaders add issues to their electoral platforms when conditions lead intra-party groups to be pragmatic. They decrease the number of issues in the platform when electoral conditions lead intra-party groups to be more ideologically rigid. Parties performing well in the previous election or that expect voters to reward them for their participation in government cause intra-party groups to act more pragmatically. However, these groups become more ideologically rigid when the party lost seats in previous elections or expect punishment for their economic record in office.
Upon taking office, I theorize that parliamentary leaders use procedures that both highlight and constrain information about their policy priorities to build the party's image of accountability with voters. Government leaders limit information to voters on issues important to their ideologically motivated intra-party groups, but protect their image with intra-party groups by discussing information about their policy agenda at the party's national meetings. Finally, I predict that ideologically cohesive governments dedicate greater more laws to the priorities of their intra-party groups than to voters' goals because intra-party groups have greater information about the government's behavior and can replace party leaders through national congresses more frequently than voters.
I test my theory using a mixed-methods approach. In particular, I test my theory quantitatively in three sections. Using data on 24 countries between 1962 and 2008 from the Comparative Manifestos Project and the OECD, I first predict the number of issues in parties' platforms based on the electoral context. I then use the results from this analysis to predict the application of legislative procedures and the amount of legislation on issues for parties' principals in the French Assemblée Nationale from 1978 through 2007 with data from the Comparative Agendas Project. Throughout these large-N analyses I find evidence in favor of the theory; parties' platforms respond to electoral conditions, government leaders use procedures on issues important to both groups and ideologically cohesive governments devote a larger number of laws to intra-party groups.
Finally, following the logic of a nested-analysis, I undertake case studies of the French Parti Socialiste's organizational behavior leading up to elections in 1993 and 1997 and its behavior in office following the 1997 election. I use evidence from news reports, party congress and legislative debates, party newsletters, and personal interviews. The analysis indicates that intra-party groups influence parties' electoral and legislative strategies. The results suggest that intra-party politics hold broad consequences for parties' behavior in office.
Copyright 2012 Zachary Greene
Greene, Zachary David. "Motivating parliament : the policy consequences of party strategy." dissertation, University of Iowa, 2012.