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Transparency in Parliamentary Voting


  • Bütler, Monika
  • Benesch, Christine
  • Hofer, Katharina


We exploit a recent change in voting procedures in one of the two chambers of the Swiss parliament to explore how transparency affects the votes of Members of Parliament (MPs). Until 2013, the Council of States (St nderat) decided by hand rising. While publicly observable at the time of the vote, MPs decisions could only be verified through time-consuming screening of online videos ex post. In 2014 - in the middle of the legislation period, the chamber switched to electronic voting. As MPs decisions are available online, transparency and observability of MP voting increased. Our analysis is based on individual voting behavior from all final passage votes in the 2011-2015 legislation period. In a difference-in-difference framework, the larger chamber, the National Council (Nationalrat), serves as control group. Voting procedures in the latter have not changed since 2007, the legislative text is identical in both chambers. After the reform, members of the Council of States are significantly less likely to deviate from their party line. We also observe a higher probability to abstain even though a strong party line exists. Our results are in line with increased observability of MP votes and higher conformity pressure from parties and party groups.

Suggested Citation

  • Bütler, Monika & Benesch, Christine & Hofer, Katharina, 2015. "Transparency in Parliamentary Voting," Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy 113033, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:vfsc15:113033

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Carrubba, Clifford J. & Gabel, Matthew & Murrah, Lacey & Clough, Ryan & Montgomery, Elizabeth & Schambach, Rebecca, 2006. "Off the Record: Unrecorded Legislative Votes, Selection Bias and Roll-Call Vote Analysis," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 36(4), pages 691-704, October.
    2. Marco Portmann & David Stadelmann, 2013. "Testing the Median Voter Model and Moving Beyond its Limits: Do Characteristics of Politicians Matter?," CREMA Working Paper Series 2013-05, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    3. Reiner Eichenberger & David Stadelmann & Marco Portmann, 2012. "A comparative analysis of the voting behavior of constituents and their representatives for public debts," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 23(3), pages 244-260, September.
    4. Abdul Ghafar Noury & Simon Hix & Gérard Roland, 2005. "Power to parties: cohesion and competition in the European Parliament 1979-2001," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/7752, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    5. David Stadelmann & Marco Portmann & Reiner Eichenberger, 2011. "Evaluating the Median Voter Model’s Explanatory Power," CREMA Working Paper Series 2011-15, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    6. McCarty, Nolan & Poole, Keith T. & Rosenthal, Howard, 2001. "The Hunt for Party Discipline in Congress," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 95(3), pages 673-687, September.
    7. Scott Ashworth & Ethan Bueno de Mesquita, 2008. "Informative Party Labels With Institutional and Electoral Variation," Journal of Theoretical Politics, , vol. 20(3), pages 251-273, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Stadelmann, David & Portmann, Marco & Eichenberger, Reiner, 2016. "The Influence of Party Affiliations on Representation of Voter Preferences in Majoritarian vs. Proportional Systems," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145705, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    2. repec:ces:ifodic:v:17:y:2019:i:1:p:50000000005877 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. ChristineBenesch & MonikaBütler & KatharinaHofer, 2019. "Who Benefits from More Transparency in Parliamentary Voting?," ifo DICE Report, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 17(01), pages 36-41, May.
    4. Hofer. Katharina, 2016. "Shirk or Work? On How Legislators React to Monitoring," Economics Working Paper Series 1616, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations
    • H10 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - General

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