Intra-party Heterogeneity and its Political Consequences in Europe
The project was dealing with the causes and consequences of intra-party conflict patterns in European states. We applied a content analysis of parliamentary speeches and coded the characteristics of the Members of Parliament in Austria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Norway and Sweden for up to two legislatures. We could show that the participation in parliamentary debates and the frequency of debate contributions as well as the programmatic stances expressed in the speeches given by an MP are not incidental, but motivated by a logic of individual utility maximizing of the respective MP. The latter is influenced by institutional and partisan factors, like the electoral system and the role of the MP within his party, as well as by personal and biographical characteristics of the MP like marital status, gender and denomination. The effect of the religious affiliation is a new finding for the political research on legislative activity and its determinants in parliamentary systems. This is because up to now, the influence of personal factors on the legislative behaviour, activity and decision-making was nearly exclusively scrutinized in presidential systems in which the disciplinary effect of party and parliamentary group is considerably weaker than in parliamentary systems. The project findings suggest that even in the parliamentary systems of Europe there is a decisive influence of gender as well as – at least in ethically and morally charged debates – of denomination and marital status on the patterns of legislative activity of MPs.
In addition to these substantial findings, we could show on a methodological level that completely computerized procedures of content analysis are suitable to detect the programmatic positions of MPs. A comparison of the programmatic positions identified on the basis of the speeches with the behaviour of MPs when initiating bills or at roll-call votes substantiated the robustness of our method.