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Strategic opposition and government cohesion in Westminster democracies

Dewan, Torun and Spirling, Arthur (2011) Strategic opposition and government cohesion in Westminster democracies. American Political Science Review, 105 (102). pp. 337-358. ISSN 1537-5943

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Identification Number: 10.1017/S0003055411000050


Cohesive government-versus-opposition voting is a robust empirical regularity in Westminster democracies. Using new data from the modern Scottish Parliament, we show that this pattern cannot be explained by similarity of preferences within or between the government and opposition ranks. We look at differences in the way that parties operate in Westminster and Holyrood, and use roll call records to show that the observed behavior is unlikely to be determined by preferences on any underlying issue dimension. Using a simple variant of the agenda-setting model—in which members of parliament can commit to their voting strategies—we show that the procedural rules for reaching collective decisions in Westminster systems can explain this phenomenon: in the equilibrium, on some bills, members of the opposition vote against the government irrespective of the proposal. Such strategic opposition can reinforce government cohesiveness and have a moderating effect on policy outcomes. We introduce new data from the House of Lords, the Welsh Assembly, and the Northern Ireland Assembly to distinguish our claims from competing accounts of the data.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2011 American Political Science Association
Divisions: Government
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2011 13:58
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 01:15

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