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Whose Side Are You On? The Party on the Ground and in Government

Sun, September 2, 8:00 to 9:30am, Hynes, 301


Do parliamentary executives represent the goals of their broader party organizations? In parliamentary democracies the chain of delegation runs from voters to MPs to cabinets. But, once in government, prime ministers consider multiple goals in addition to internal party representation when they appoint their cabinets such as the candidate’s expertise, political experience, party rank, and voter representation. But, how representative are cabinets of their parties? This paper is the first to directly test an often held assumption in political science that party governments represent their parties’ priorities. Using unique new data on the party membership preferences as captured during party conferences from automated content analysis and data on important ministerial portfolios in the UK, Germany and France, we test the congruence between parties on the ground and parties in government. Evidence of consistent divergence suggests that party cabinets are not simply descriptive representatives of internal party groups, but that other motives also moderate the internal representation process.