Shaun Bevan, Zachary Greene
Maintaining Attention: Partisan Effects on Attention in UK Acts of Parliament

Political Studies Association Conference, Cardiff, April 03rd, 2013

Decades of political science research concludes that political parties matter for government outcomes. Despite this general belief, much of the recent work on agenda-setting has found just the opposite; parties generally do not matter when it comes to explaining government attention. While the common explanation for this finding is that attention is just different than policy, this explanation has never truly been tested. Through the use of data on nearly 65 years of UK Acts of Parliament this paper presents a detailed investigation of the effect parties have on issue attention in UK Acts of Parliament. It demonstrates that while parties do differ on their average levels of attention to certain issues, that elections alone do not explain these differences. Instead, the parties’ organizations, responses to economic conditions, and size of the parliamentary delegation influence the agenda as a whole following a party transition.