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Geographic Representation at the Margins: The Case of the German Bundestag

Elites
Parliaments
Political Parties
Representation
Comparative Perspective
Thomas Zittel
Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt
Markus Baumann
Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt
Dominic Nyhuis
Universität Hannover
Thomas Zittel
Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt

Abstract

The role of geography remains a neglected issue in research on political representation in Europe. This paper proposes to perceive geographic representation in European democracies as complementary rather than as antithetical to the dominant type of partisan (social) representation. Particularly, we expect European legislators to engage in geographic representation at the margins in twofold ways. First, by exploiting individual opportunities to participate in legislative contexts to individually signal attention to geographic constituents without disrupting party unity. Second, on the basis of non-ideological motivations that are driven by biographical backgrounds and joint efforts of legislators and parties to highlight valence issues as an answer to high levels of party fragmentation. We empirically test this argument for the German case on the basis of a content analysis of parliamentary questions in the 17th German Bundestag (2009-2013). In this analysis, we corroborate our theoretical argument and show that legislators with strong local roots are more likely to exploit parliamentary questions to signal to geographic constituents. We furthermore show that legislators representing districts with high party fragmentation are more likely to extensively use parliamentary questions to signal to local constituents.