Party Competition and Policy Outcomes in Multilevel Systems

Research question/goal: 

The aim of the project was to 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 includes the analysis of the determinants of the programmatic profile of the parties at the regional level as well as the patterns of government formation on the regional political sphere, especially against the background of European integration and European regional funding. The background to the project was the strengthening of the role of the regions in the modern democracies, which is indicated by numerous studies in the course of globalization and the advancing European integration process.On the basis of theoretical models that take into account the institutional characteristics of the political systems as well as a political-economic and a social-structural perspective, expectations we derived expectations on the decision-making process of regional political parties in the European multi-level system. These expectations were empirically tested from newly created data sets. It was possible to build on a series of preliminary work to measure the policy positions of parties and coalition governments at the national and the regional level. The multi-level systems examined comprised Western and Eastern European countries, whose sub-national units have different degrees of authority in terms of influencing the political process and policy outputs. Specifically, the election manifestos and coalition agreements at the regional level for the following European countries were collected over a longer time and analyzed with computerised methods of content analysis: Belgium, Germany, United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain and the Czech Republic.On the basis of this data we could show that parties at the regional level include the specific characteristics of the regional electorate when formulating their election manifestos. In addition, the positions that the regional parties take in their election manifestos play a crucial role in the process of forming a government. In addition, the more the regions under study have received funding from the EU and its regional development programs, the more likely they are to take a positive stance on European integration in their manifestos. By answering these questions, we closed a gap in the comparative analysis of governance in multilevel systems and thus in the sub-national 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 available on the website open access.

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