Carrubba, Clifford J. and Gabel, Matthew and Murrah, Lacey and Clough, Ryan and Montgomery, Elizabeth and Schambach, Rebecca. (2004) A Second Look at Legislative Behavior in the European Parliament. Roll-Call Votes and the Party System. IHS Political Science Series: 2004, No. 94. [Working Paper]
A great deal of recent research on voting behavior in the European Parliament (EP) concludes that party groups dominate legislative behavior, effectively organizing political competition along ideological rather than national lines. As a result, some argue that the EP is a suitable arena for transnational political contestation. We re-examine several empirical findings used to support these conclusions. Based on an analysis of a novel set of data regarding EP votes that are unrecorded, we argue that the empirical basis for these conclusions is dubious. The fundamental finding is that roll call votes, which form the basis of studies of legislative voting behavior, are a biased sample of legislative votes. This calls into question the accuracy of any description of party unity or the character of party competition on legislation that is gleaned from roll call votes in the EP. In addition, our findings indicate that party groups hide the vast majority of legislative votes from the eyes of voters, therefore obfuscating legislative behavior. Thus, while the EP is often identified as a source of democratic accountability for EU policy-making because its members are directly elected, our findings suggest that in practice party groups significantly obstruct this channel of popular control over policy-making.
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