Thomas Bräuninger, Jochen Müller, Christian Stecker
Modeling Preferences Using Roll Call Votes in Parliamentary Systems

Political Analysis, 2016: 24, issue 2, pp. 189-210
ISSN: 1047-1987 (print); 1476-4989 (online)

Models of ideal point estimation usually build on the assumption of spatial preferences. This ignores legislators’ non-policy incentives and is thus likely to produce implausible results for many legislatures. We study this problem in parliamentary systems and develop a model of roll call voting that considers both the policy and the non-policy, tactical incentives of legislators. We go on to show how the relative weight of these policy and tactical incentives is influenced by the identity of the mover and characteristics of the motion. Analyses of two data sets of 2174 roll call votes in German state legislatures and 3295 roll call votes in the British House of Commons result in three main findings. First, we show that tactical incentives may be more important than policy incentives, and second, that the importance of tactical incentives varies with the importance of motions. Third, there are interesting twists: backbench private members’ bills may reverse tactical incentives whereas proposals from anti-system parties are virtually always rejected by moderate parties, rendering these votes uninformative. Our findings have implications for ideal point estimation in parliamentary systems, as well as for research on separation of power systems.