Party Competition and Policy Outcomes in Multilevel Systems

Research question/goal: 

The aim of the project was to first study the programmatic profile of political parties competing for votes at the regional level of European political systems. In a second step, the data was used to explain decision-making processes in the political process. This data included the determinants of the programmatic profile of parties at the regional level as well as the patterns of government formation, especially in the context of European integration and European regional funding. The starting point for this project was the growing importance of regions in modern democracies, which is evident in numerous studies on globalization and the advancing European integration process.On the basis of theoretical models that take into account the institutional characteristics of the political systems and assume a political–economic, social–structural perspective, we derived expectations on the decision-making process of regional political parties in the European multilevel system. These expectations were empirically tested using newly created data sets, building on a body of preliminary work to measure the policy positions of parties and coalition governments at the national and the regional level. The multilevel systems examined comprised Western and Eastern European countries, whose sub-national units have different degrees of authority to influence the political process and policy outputs. Specifically, we collected the election manifestos and coalition agreements at the regional level for Austria, Belgium, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, and the Czech Republic over a longer time. These were subsequently analysed with computerised methods of content analysis.The analysis showed that parties at the regional level include the specific characteristics of the regional electorate when formulating their election manifestos. Furthermore, the positions that the regional parties take in their election manifestos play a crucial role in the process of government formation. In addition, the more the regions under study have received funding from the EU and its regional development programmes, the more likely they are to take a positive stance on European integration in their manifestos. With these findings, we closed a gap in the comparative analysis of governance in multilevel systems and thus in the subnational units. Moreover, due to the creation of data sets that provide information on the policy area–specific preferences of regional parties, we provide important empirical material for further research projects interested in the political and economic development of European regions. The full texts of the election manifestos of regional parties as well as the generated data sets are freely available at

Fact sheet

2011 to 2021
Data Sources: 
Survey Data, Social Structural Data, Election Manifestos and Coalition Agreements, Budgetary Data
Geographic Space: 
Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom



Bräuninger, Thomas, Marc Debus, Jochen Müller and Christian Stecker (2020): Parteienwettbewerb in den deutschen Bundesländern. 2., vollständig überarbeitete Auflage, Wiesbaden: Springer VS. more