About me

My research interests are legislative politics, applied political methodology, and computational social science. My empirical focus is the European Union, in particular the European Parliament (EP), but also bicameral relations between the EP and the Council, as well as legislative and budgetary politics. I maintain an easy-to-use data-base of Members in the European Parlimament. If you finds the webpage useful for your research, please cite this paper with Indraneel Sircar and Simon Hix. With Simon Hix, I am writing the 4th edition of the Political System of the European Union. I also do work on national parliments, such as the Canadian House of Commons and, more recently, the Norwegian Parliament.

Current research

Strategic Roll Call Requests (with Fang-Yi Chiou and Simon Hug)

Roll call vote analyses used to infer ideal-points of legislators or the co- hesiveness of parties all implicitly assume that the data-generating process leading to such votes is random and does not affect MPs’ behavior. If roll call votes, however, are requested by party leaders or MPs, this assumption is unlikely to hold. Strategic considerations by the actors requesting roll call votes are likely to influence the inferences we wish to make based on observed voting behavior by legislators. To address this issue we extend Chiou and Yang’s (2008) strategic estimator for roll call vote requests and apply it to data on roll call vote requests in the European parliament. We find that strategic considerations play a considerable role in roll call vote requests, which questions some empirical findings regarding such requests presented in the literature.

Sponsoring Resolutions on Civil Wars in the UN Security Council (with Fang-Yi Chiou and Simon Hug)

The United Nations Security Council alone has the power, under chapter VII, to adopt binding resolutions concerning interventions in civil wars through peacekeeping missions. While some research has focused on the conditions under which such resolutions are adopted or rejected (most often due to a veto by a permanent member), we know little what influences whether such resolutions are introduced for consideration by the UNSC, or put differently, who sponsors such resolutions. This is problematic as the absence of an adopted resolution, for instance for creating a peacekeeping operation might be due to the absence of a sponsor for such a resolution or a negative vote on a resolution introduced. In part as a consequence, sponsorship decisions by the members of the UNSC are quite likely to be affected by the likelihood of winning approval by the fifteen members of the UNSC and the sponsorship decisions of other members. We propose an empirical approach that allows taking these interdependencies into account, and, when evaluating commonly used explanatory variables for the adoption of peacekeeping missions, we find results contradicting previous findings on the adoption of such resolutions.

Electoral Reform and Parliamentary Debates (with Martin G. Søyland)

Individual legislators have stronger incentives to develop personal profiles in candidate-centered than in party-centered systems. Moreover, the party leadership have stronger incentives to protect the “brand-name” of the party in the latter than in the former system. We investigate whether the electoral system also a↵ect the topics discussed in plenary debates by comparing the topics discussed in the Norwegian Parliament before and after the 1919 electoral reform. With this re- form, Norway changed from being a candidate centered system to a party centered system. Focusing on MPs that serve both before and after the reform, we find that party di↵erences take prevalence over personal characteristics with the change from candidate to party centered system. Specifically, we show how speeches turn from candidate-centric to party ideological contestation as a consequence of electoral reform.

Do Members of Parliament Respond to Local Economic Shocks? (with Henning Finseraas and Martin G. Søyland)

We study how Members of Parliament respond to local economic shocks. One credible way to address voters’ concerns in the aftermath of such shocks, is to address them in parliamentary speeches. Focusing on the Norwegian Storting, we study how MPs’ parliamentary speeches were affect by the exogenous shock in the world prices of oil. The oil shock had a large, rapidly felt effect on the local labour and housing market on the west coast where the oil sector is particularly important. Using structural topic models combined with a difference in differences design, we find that that the oil shock did not cause MPs from affected constituencies to alter their speech pattern to a larger extent than MPs from regions less affected by the oil shock. The only exception is perhaps climate change. MPs from the affected regions seem to reduce their attention of climate change issues to a larger extent than other MPs after the fall in the oil price. As such, climate change may be considered a luxury topic that receive more attention in times of high economic growth.

Delegation in Committees (with Fang-Yi Chiou and Silje S.L. Hermansen)

Legislative committees lay the foundation for plenary’s discussions and decisions. In some legislatures, an individual committee member is appointed and assigned with the responsibility for drafting a committee report on the legislative proposal. Theoretically, committee members with more expertise are more likely to be appointed. But the effect is not monotonic. Highly specialized rapporteur with divergent preferences may have less incentive to transmit information, and as a a result, less likely to be selected. In addition, the effects of expertise and loyalty increase with the power of the legislature. We evaluate these predictions on data from the European Parliament.