Legislative co-sponsorship: Interest groups as hidden links?
Manuel Fischer | Switzerland
Interacting with MPs is critical for interest groups in terms of agenda-setting and policy influence and, vice versa, MPs rely on interest groups for policy information and resources. This study focuses on a crucial aspect of this symbiotic relation between interest groups and MPs. It investigates whether MPs' affiliations to interest groups influence MPs agenda-setting behavior in parliament. It combines the literature on interest groups, parliamentary behavior, and legislative networks. A first theoretical expectation is that MPs with formal ties to interest groups, within a specific policy domain, are more likely to co-sponsor legislative proposals in this domain than MPs not affiliated to these interest groups. A second expectation is that MPs with similar profiles in terms of their interest groups ties co-sponsor their respective legislative proposals. These hypotheses will be tested empirically with data on MPs interest group ties and MPs behavior in terms of co-sponsoring legislative proposals in the Swiss Parliament.
Simple network measures such as degree centrality will capture the relations between groups and MPs. The information on which MPs have ties to which interest groups stems from the official register of the Swiss Parliament. Co-sponsorship activity of MPs as well as co-sponsorship ties between MPs are assessed in a network. The respective data stems from the official database of the Swiss Parliament. The analysis is based on a statistical model for network data (ERGM), and will control for additional explanatory variables of co-sponsorship behavior such as MPs' party membership, legislative committee assignments, electoral districts, seniority in Parliament, gender, etc.
Investigating the influence of interest groups on MPs agenda-setting activities is an important theoretical and normative topic, as it relates to the broader question of which interests MPs represent in parliament. If the hypothesized mechanisms are observed, this means that MPs promote the policy agenda of interest groups instead of representing the preferences of their electoral constituency. Such a discrepancy between electoral constituency and group preferences could be a concern for representative democracy. From a methodological point of view, it is also an interesting research design since ties between MPs and interest groups measure groups' access to the parliamentary venue, and the respective MPs’ co-sponsorship of legislative proposals capture groups' influence on agenda-setting and policy-making.
Homophily, cosponsorship, and voting among legislators: New evidence from Ukraine
Tymofii Brik | University of Carlos III | Spain
Keywords: cosponsorship; voting; collaboration; social network analysis; homophily; Ukraine.
The legislative process has triggered a vast array of research in political science. These studies, however, are not without limitations. (i) Most of the research is focused on the US; (ii) studies of co-voting surpass studies of cosponsorship; (iii) collaboration and homophily remain understudied. In order to address these limitations, we offer a new dataset on legislative collaboration (both co-sponsoring and co-voting) in Ukraine from November 2014 to August 2015. Our central research question is to what extent homophily is associated with legislative collaboration. On the one hand, those MPs who have similar ideology and experience could collaborate more. On the other hand, MPs are likely to gain advantage from their unique positions and, thus, collaborate on the basis of their interests and network positions regardless similarities with others. We put these contradictive expectations to the test by running a series of QAP correlation and regression models. Our data indicates that legislative collaboration in Ukraine varies greatly with respect to two dimensions: a type of collaboration (co-sponsoring or co-voting) and a type of mechanism (homophily or individual factors). In terms of homophily, our data suggest that this mechanism is important only for co-voting and does not affect cosponsorship. In terms of individual factors, our data suggest that group affiliations and resources are important for generating more co-sponsored laws with any other MP, whereas co-voting is more dependent merely on group affiliations.
Information Networks of German Parliamentarians
Sebastian Haunss | University of Bremen | Germany
The interest groups literature often assumes that parliamentarians lack in-depth knowledge on most policies and thus depend on information supplied by interest groups. On the other hand, literature on party politics often focuses exclusively on intra-parliamentary interactions or information exchange between parliament and administration. Both aspects are usually not combined within one study.
In our contribution we analyze information-seeking behavior of German members of the federal parliament (Bundestag). The data comes from a survey of a representative sample of about 15% of the members of the German Bundestag (MdBs). Our goal is, to identify information-seeking patterns among MdBs on EU-related decisions. This is done by clustering the bipartite information-seeking network between MdBs and their information sources using bipartite, recursively induced
modules (BRIM) and Copula-based approaches. We then analyze whether similar information-seeking strategies can be explained by party affiliation, similar formal positions (e.g. committee chair, backbencher, …), experience or other factors.
Our research will hopefully contribute to a better theoretical and empirical understanding of parliamentary policy-making and explore to which degree bipartite clustering approaches can be used to understand behavioral patterns.
Evolving affiliations amongst UK politicians
Hywel Williams | University of Exeter | United Kingdom
Elected politicians do not represent their constituencies in a social vacuum, but inevitably and necessarily form social connections with their colleagues. It is therefore important to describe the social networks of politicians, in order to understand how network structures and processes might affect the actions taken on behalf of the electorate.
This paper uses time-resolved interactions between UK politicians in social media to analyse their interactions during an eventful period spanning the 2015 General Election and the 2016 Referendum on membership of the EU (Brexit). We develop a novel ‘multiplex community affiliation clustering’ (MCAC) method to track the evolution of community structure amongst UK politicians (Members of Parliament, MPs, and British Members of the European Parliament, MEPs). To ensure sufficient data for creation of robust networks, we augment the direct first-order interactions (where one politician retweets another) with indirect second-order interactions (where a two-step retweet path connects two politicians via a non-politician intermediary). This extension captures the wider UK political landscape, including partisan and non-partisan media outlets, journalists, party members, and the politically engaged public. Social networks of politicians derived from interactions in social media show coherent communities with strong linkage within political parties. Comparison of networks formed from direct retweet interactions between politicians and the extended networks including two-step paths via a non-politician intermediary shows that both are qualitatively similar.
Despite the inherent dynamism of social media, network structure typically falls into one of four distinct network states, while the topics of discussion typically fall into one of six distinct content states. Both network states and content states are each strikingly persistent and recurrent over time, and reflect ongoing political events and debates. For example, the politically divisive referendum on the UK’s memberships of the EU produced a network state which dominated from announcement of the referendum date in mid-February to the end of June when the referendum took place. This period saw MEPs affiliated with the United Kingdom Independence Party, who largely championed the vote to withdraw from the EU, forming consistent communities with the majority of MPs from other parties who expressed support for Britain’s exit from the EU. Politicians campaigning to Remain were well-linked, including an unusual linkage between left-wing Labour MEPs and right-wing Conservative politicians.
The MCAC network clustering method alone recovered several key features of UK politics during the study period. Firstly, the temporal sequence of weekly network snapshots was recovered based on their cluster similarity, without any temporal information being provided to the clustering method. Secondly, the clustering of individual politicians was able to accurately identify the ideological position of MPs and MEPs regarding the EU referendum. This ability of social network analysis to predict the ideological positions of individual politicians suggests a route towards predictive political science.
Reference: Weaver, Williams (H), Cioroianu, Coan, Williams (M), Banducci (submitted) Evolving affiliations amongst UK politicians on social media. In review.