My current research in Comparative Politics focuses on the study coalitional bargaining and policy-making in the European Union, in European parliamentary democracies, and in the US Congress. In this regard, my research looks more closely at the effects of inter-party polarization on coalitional bargaining, the impact of legislative amendments to executive-sponsored bills, the effects of factionalism in intra-party politics, and the connections between electoral competition and legislative behavior.
Methodologically, I use Formal Theory to investigate political behavior. One line of my research builds social choice models to develop equilibrium solutions for multidimensional coalitional spatial games. I focus here on farsighted coalitional behavior and on ideological polarization in different legislative settings. A second line of research applies classic signaling models of strategic interaction to study the use of wedge issues by opposition parties with a view to change the legislative agenda. I also apply models of bureaucratic delegation to study the relation between government coalition-formation and bureaucratic capacity.
The Strategy of Wedge Issues in Multi-party Democracies. Legislative Dynamics and Electoral Consequences
(with Eitan Tzelgov)
This research aims at examining how the strategic interaction between parties in the government and parties in the opposition lead to significant reforms of the political agenda. There is a vast literature that asks whether parties attempt to manipulate the macroeconomic environment (Alesina and Rosenthal 1995, Fiorina, 1981, Rogoff and Sibert 1988, Hibbs 1987, Yoo 1998). On the other hand, scholarly attention on wedged issues and agenda change has mostly focused on electoral competition in isolation (Carmines & Stimson 1986, Riker 1986, Schattschneider 1960, Meguid 2005, Jeong et al. 2011). Our research is original in which it seeks to investigate how change in the political agenda due to wedge issues unfolds first from endogenous legislative behavior on the parliamentary floor. The basic argument leading this research is founded in a signaling model of strategic interaction under uncertainty in which, in the event of economic shocks or other crisis-related opportunities, opposition parties have always incentives to signal a strong commitment for wedge issues, such as the "security'', "climate change'' or "immigration", in order to extract policy concessions from the government in the enactment of legislation and to obtain future electoral gains. In separation, the government response leads to its internal division and moderation. This moderation first facilitates coalition realignments and shifts in agenda-control toward opposition parties, as well as government vote loss. Secondly, we expect electoral polarization to increase the optimality of wedge issues’ use, leading to electoral volatility in the ideological center. Third, when the precision of voters' perception regarding the political shock decreases, we expect governments to be less vulnerable to wedge issues. We test these implications by quantitatively analyzing 30 years of legislative speeches from Israel and the UK.
Farsighted Coalitions, Polarization, and Durable Legislation in the U.S Congress
This research investigates legislative agenda control on the floor as mediated by dynamics of intra-cameral and inter-cameral coalitional bargaining in majority legislative coalitions (Diermeier and Vlaicu 2011, Gailmard and Hammond 2011). More specifically, I explore the mechanism by which significant and durable legislation is generated in the US congress. This work extends a social choice framework to (Garcia Perez de Leon and Grossman, 2013) to integrate the dynamics of a sequential process with random events and recurrent reversion point and in a bicameral setting. It argues that coalitions of legislators in the Congress are farsighted, and choose to enact significant laws according to the expectation of partisan shifts of the legislature every two years. In equilibrium, legislative terms with unitary coalitions and showing polarization in the policy space are likely to prompt off-median coalitions within the majority party to adopt significant bills, as they expect that strong policy change will protect their laws from amendment in the future. Moreover, once a bill has been enacted, amendments become increasingly difficult as a law ages. The effect of polarization, has, instead, a detrimental effect on enactment of durable bills when the two chambers of the Congress are controlled by different parties. This effect is indeed dramatic. Under divided government, an extremist but isolated faction in the House suffice to prevent the introduction of any stable policy innovation. From the perspective of evaluating the policy performance of a democracy, these findings lead us to the conclusion that durable and stable legislation tends originate with the advancement ideological agendas, and not, as the prevailing wisdom suggests, with the achievement of bipartisan consensus. Further development of this research aims at testing equilibrium solutions of the theory using longitudinal measures of party cohesion and polarization obtained from DW-NOMINATE scores.
Intra-party factionalism and Electoral Competition
(with Maoz Rosenthal)
This research presents a general theory in a multidimensional setting stating the conditions under which party activists who supported a losing intra-party faction in primary contest turn to support the party's winning faction the activists campaigned against. We show that as aggregate uncertainty about the policy preferences of the party's main representative voters increases, the leading party elites will hold incentives to shift the policy of the party in order to mobilize a marginal share of the electorate, while activists who supported the the leadership in the primaries will set significant constraints to any change of the the status quo. Under these conditions, the leading elite will seek the cooperation of losing activists. In the unique Nash equilibrium of the game, losing activists gain policy concessions by supporting the rival faction, while the leadership of the party secures a competitive position in the electoral scene. The intra-party bargain is only sustained if the party leadership of the party distributes significant office-holding benefits to both winning and losing activists. We find that the likelihood of cooperation between the leadership and the losing activists will increase in the voter uncertainty about policy, the dispersion of losing activists, and their asymmetry in the intensity of preferences for different dimensional issues, but will decrease in the size of the primary winning majority and the ideological polarization among activist groups.
Coalition Formation and Bureaucratic Competence in Europe
This research seeks to analyze how patterns of government formation and government programs variably affect the development of bureaucratic competence in Europe. Following previous works on the field (Gailmard and Patty, 2007, 2013), I aim first at developing a formal model of bureaucratic expertise specifying how the strategic interactions of an elected government and their administrative branch endogenously generate the development of administrative expertise in the implementation of concrete policy programs. Based on this general model, my research will subsequently explore patterns of government formation in order to posit concrete hypotheses about how incentive-compatibility between the government and its administrative branch explains the variation of the development of bureaucratic capacity across parliamentary democracies. My first putative hypothesizes for this project suggest that democracies that tend to accumulate pattern of ideologically strong coalition governments over a extended period of time are likely to develop less meritocratic public services and less public spending. Generally, democracies with low effective number of parties such as UK, Ireland, Spain, Greece or Hungary should manifest mild levels of bureaucratic capacity. On the contrary, in multi-party coalition governments, strong ideological positions may weaken in favor of pragmatic programs to be implemented by expert bureaucracies. In democracies in which we observe minority governments consistently formed around the center of the policy space, such as Denmark, Sweden and Norway, bureaucratic competence is also likely to be developed.
Parliamentary Involvement in EU Bicameral Bargaining
(With Emiliano Grossman)
This work attempts to determine the degree of influence of the European Parliament beyond conventional measures of legislative productivity. In particular, this work investigates under which strategic conditions of the bicameral bargaining between the EP and the Council, the EP is more likely to introduce "meaningful'' amendments, and how these activity ultimately shape EU public policies. Using new data from the OIE, and in the line of new developments in this subject in the area of comparative politics (Franchino and Hoyland, 2009; Huber and Shipan, 2002, Martin and Vanberg, 2013), this work will introduce new measures of amendment capability in terms of the number of (sub)articles added or altered in versions of Commission and Council bills.
EU Legislative Bargaining, Institutional Discretion, and Domestic Economic Reforms
In the tradition of research in political economy focusing on the interaction between domestic politics and international negotiations, this project explores the links between the bargaining power of European governments at the EU level and their economic policy reform capacity at the domestic level from 2002 to 2014. Specifically, the project looks at “blocking dynamics” within the EU legislative process and attempts to comparatively examine how member governments in the Council of the EU seek to keep their domestic implementation schemes by protecting their “vital interests” in EU-level legislative bargaining. Using data from the OIE, I measure blocking strategies of a given government in the EU legislative process in terms of the delay of directive bills in which the government was pivotal for its adoption. To the extent that such strategies are successful, I expect that directives adopted by the Council of the EU and the EP in key economic policies will grant considerable discretion to national authorities in the transposition process, and, a fortify, less delegated discretion to the Commission. Building on Steunenberg (2010), the leading hypothesis of this project is that government strategies at the EU-level will largely depend on the reformist choices of national ministries responsible for transposition of EU directives. By considering indicators of both regulatory policies (government debt, fiscal deficits) and of redistributive economic policies (labour inequality, unemployment rates), the project suggests that EU bargaining will involve important reformist trade-offs to all member states of the EU. In this view, this research explores how institutional and political characteristics of member states, such as the electoral system, the fragmentation of the political system, the structure of the public sector, and the traditional party attitudes towards economic regulation and redistribution, are more likely to induce reformist (conservative) choices from the ministerial authorities of the 28 member states of the the EU. The final expectation is that reformist (conservative) choices will, ex-ante, shape delay strategies in the configuration of EU directives. In turn, the directives will determine, ex-post, the capacity for domestic economic policy reforms.