Project C2:

Reform agendas, policy diffusion and the consequences of intra-party position taking



Prof. Dr. Thomas Bräuninger / Prof. Dr. Marc Debus



Sebastian Juhl / Roni Lehrer, Ph.D.


Zachary Greene, Ph.D.

 Duration:01.01.2010 - 31.12.2017



This project examines the effect of external shocks on the programmatic position-taking of parties and the provision of reform policies in developed democracies. Based on a broad theory of party politics and policymaking, we predict that external shocks influence the distributions of preferences of the mass public, partisan supporters and intra-party actors. We define external shocks as events brought on by causes beyond the immediate control of elected representatives, such as environmental or financial disasters. Following the responsible party government model (Powell 2004), we expect that party leaders seek to implement policies in line with the diverse goals of their supporters. Party leaders respond to these reform pressures by changing the location of, first, the preferences and second, the salience of issues in their platforms and policy statements. The degree to which party leaders represent their principals’ preferences depends on the party’s and parliament’s institutional rules and intra-party preference heterogeneity. Parties containing groups with heterogeneous policy goals make it difficult for party leaders to create policy outputs in line with their voters. We predict that parties that include intra-party groups with diverse policy goals create greater policy divergence with their electoral supporters than parties with more cohesive intra-party groups. However, exogenous shocks can cause both intra-party groups and reform policies to fall more closely in line with the goals of the electorate by influencing preferences or narrowing the degree of preference heterogeneity on an issue within the electorate and within the party.

In the first phase of the project, the central aim was to explore when and why intra-party groups or individual MPs take issues on their political agenda and adopt policy positions on these issues that deviate from the party line. We also looked into how intra-party conflict influences the formulation of the policy programme of parties. More specifically, we sought to understand how, when, and to what degree individual position-taking of political actors within a party influences the programmatic position of the party core, and what role external shocks like the emergence of new reform agendas play in this process. In the second phase of the project, we aim to deepen our investigation of intra-party conflicts by considering the impact of multiple external shocks and intra-party politics on, on the one side, legislative agenda-setting and decision-making, and on the other side, on voters’ perception of the parties’ problem-solving capacity of exogenously emerged issues that result in pressure for implementing reforms. We seek to widen our analysis by including additional cases from Europe, such as the UK, Belgium, and France.