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Back to Paper Details
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Thinking, Speaking, Doing? Preference, Speech and Floor Voting Congruence

Comparative Politics
Elites
Parliaments
Political Parties
David Willumsen
University of Innsbruck
Patrik Ohberg
University of Gothenburg
David Willumsen
University of Innsbruck

Abstract

Parliamentary speeches and votes are key aspects of democratic representation, as they permit voters to straightforwardly observe the actions of their representatives. However, given potential party constraints in terms of speeches and behavior, MPs may not accurately express their sincere preferences. This raises two key questions: To what extent do MPs express their true preferences when giving speeches in parliament? And to what extent does their subsequent voting behavior reflect their true and their expressed preferences? These key questions in the study of democracy remain understudied, and in particular, the relationship between true and expressed preferences is unexplored. This paper analyses on a novel dataset covering seven parliamentary terms (1994-2018) of the Swedish Riksdag, and includes survey data (seven waves) with response rates of over 90%, all final votes on legislation, and the speeches given on legislation. Drawing on these data, we show the extent to which MPs are constrained by their parties in terms of expressing their preferences in debates and as well as in floor voting. Exploiting a change in electoral system in prior to the 1998 election, we also assess the extent to which the introduction of an incentive to pursue a personal vote influenced speech and voting behavior in the Riksdag. By comparing true and expressed preferences we are better suited than previous studies to capture the open and covert ideological differences within parties and thereby contribute to the ongoing research on intraparty dynamics in party centered systems.