Where have all the leaders gone? Evaluating the dynamics of parties’ issue attention in coalition governments



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While selective issue emphasis is a widely recognized strategy of party competition, we have little knowledge about how coalition parties interact with each other when deciding which policy issues to emphasize. Therefore we ask: Who leads and who follows the issue agenda in coalition governments? Methods. We create an issue attention data set using quantitative text analysis from over 40,000 press releases. We use this data set and time series cross-section regression analysis to study the dynamics of coalition parties' issue attention. Results. We find that junior coalition parties are more responsive to their senior partners than senior partners to their junior partners. Hence, while coalition partners generally follow each other, senior partners enjoy a stronger leadership role in the cabinet. Conclusion. Coalition parties indeed coordinate their issue priorities as they respond to each other's issue agenda. However, due the asymmetric power distribution in coalition cabinets, it is not a negotiation process on equal footing.


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Sagarzazu, I. and Klüver, H. (2017), Where Have All the Leaders Gone? Evaluating the Dynamics of Parties' Issue Attention in Coalition Governments. Social Science Quarterly, 98: 1045–1060. doi:10.1111/ssqu.12437