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Journal ArticleDOI

A New Approach to the Study of Parties Entering Government

01 Oct 2015-British Journal of Political Science (Cambridge University Press)-Vol. 45, Iss: 4, pp 739-754
TL;DR: This article showed that a preferred methodological approach is to first estimate a standard multinomial choice model (conditional logit or mixed logit) of coalition formation, using government formation opportunities as the unit of analysis and potential governments as the choice alternatives.
Abstract: Previous studies of the factors that influence the ability of parties to join governments have estimated binary choice models using the parties as the unit of analysis, which inappropriately treats each party in a government formation opportunity as an independent observation (a problem that clustered standard errors do not solve) and does not allow researchers to control for important coalition-level effects. This article demonstrates that a preferred methodological approach is to first estimate a standard multinomial choice model (conditional logit or mixed logit) of coalition formation, using government formation opportunities as the unit of analysis and potential governments as the choice alternatives. The probabilities of parties joining governments can then be recovered by simply summing the probabilities for the potential governments that contain each party. An empirical example shows how the substantive conclusions about a party's likelihood of entering office can change depending on the methodological approach taken.

Summary (3 min read)

GARRETT GLASGOW AND SONA N. GOLDER*

  • A number of recent studies in the government formation literature have examined the factors that influence the ability of political parties to join governments.
  • The authors gratefully acknowledge support for this project from the Research Center (SFB) 884 ‘Political Economy of Reforms’, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).
  • An empirical example demonstrates that this approach can change the substantive conclusions the authors draw about how key independent variables affect a party’s likelihood of entering office.

PARTIES WITHIN GOVERNMENT FORMATION OPPORTUNITIES

  • The authors discuss why analysts should use the government formation opportunity as the unit of analysis even if the question of interest centers on parties.
  • The authors also address some practical issues the analyst needs to consider when switching the unit of analysis, and how it is possible to calculate the predicted probabilities of parties entering government.

Why Formation Opportunities are the Correct Unit of Analysis

  • In parliamentary and semi-presidential democracies, governments need the support of a majority of the members of the legislature to take office.
  • Andeweg and Irwin note that government formation outcomes in the Netherlands were constrained by ‘the relations between the parties.
  • At one point during the long negotiations, the Walloon environmentalist party, Ecolo, announced certain conditions for joining the government: first, the Flemish environmental party (Groen!) would also have to join the government, and second, the Flemish regionalist party N-VA could not join the government.
  • In any government formation process, if one party becomes more likely to join a government, this may well affect the likelihood of other parties joining.
  • Models that use political parties as the unit of analysis suffer from a second shortcoming: they cannot account for how coalition characteristics influence the likelihood of a party entering office.

Methodological Considerations

  • Previous studies of parties joining governments have used data with political parties as the unit of analysis, and then estimated a binary choice model (logit or probit) to estimate the probability that a party with certain characteristics enters office.
  • The authors do this by calculating party-level variables that are meant to capture some of these coalition-level effects.
  • Another problem is that this approach cannot account for the fact that some variables that influence the government formation process might have different effects at the coalition level versus the party level.
  • Either of these multinomial choice models solves one of the fundamental problems with the binary logit model in Equation 1, since the probability that a political party will join the government can now be influenced by the observed characteristics of the other parties in the formation opportunity.

Calculating Party Probabilities

  • In addition to interpreting the sign and significance of their variables, the authors also want to consider their substantive significance.
  • To examine the substantive effect of the independent variables in their model on the probabilities of parties joining governments, the authors begin by setting the values of the independent variables to create a hypothetical government formation opportunity.
  • Calculating standard errors on these predicted probabilities (and differences between them) is also straightforward.
  • Then, within each of the k sets of potential governments the authors sum the potential government probabilities for each party, obtaining k predicted probabilities for each party in their hypothetical scenario.

Data and Coding Considerations

  • Of course, switching from a binary model examining political parties to a multinomial choice model examining potential governments will entail some adjustments to one’s data; in most cases researchers interested in studying parties joining governments will have collected data on individual political parties.
  • Dummy variables that capture party characteristics (largest party status, median party status, etc.) are easily converted to coalition-level variables.
  • The key in specifying these variables at the 18 King, Tomz, and Wittenberg 2000.
  • When considering the effect of party size on the probability of joining the government, the authors must consider how the additional seats the party brings to the coalition will change the coalition’s characteristics.
  • In other cases the potential government will already have a majority, and the party’s seats will just mean additional internal competition for cabinet positions – making the formation of this coalition less likely.

AN EMPIRICAL APPLICATION

  • To demonstrate how their approach works, the authors compare several different models estimated on the same data, but using different units of analysis.
  • Scholars of coalition governments have found that both party size (the share of legislative seats) and the ideological positions that parties take affect a party’s chances of becoming a part of the government.
  • Being the largest party can provide an advantage in the government formation process.
  • At the coalition level, theoretical accounts of the bargaining process suggest that minimal-winning coalitions should be more likely to form a government than minority or surplus coalitions would be.20 The countries are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

Does the Incumbency Advantage Apply to Parties or Coalitions?

  • The parties in incumbent coalitions have more information about their current partners, gained from their experience of being in government together, making negotiations over the next government’s policy easier.
  • Model 1 examines several different characteristics of parties and how they influence the probability of entering government.
  • To measure ideological distance the authors use the CMP ideological scores for each party and calculate the absolute difference (divided by 100) between this score and the median ideological score for the formation opportunity.
  • This shows that while the incumbent coalition holds an advantage on average, and coalitions that include more parties are disadvantaged on average, the magnitude of these effects varies across government formation opportunities.

CONCLUSION

  • Understanding which types of parties are more likely to join governments, and why, is central to their understanding of the government formation process.
  • Clustering the standard errors in a binary model will not solve this problem.
  • Secondly, this approach does not allow researchers to control for some important coalition-level effects that will have strong influences on the probabilities of parties entering governments.
  • This approach appropriately models the government formation process while allowing researchers to control for important coalition-level variables.
  • The approach the authors recommend here provides researchers with a straightforward and methodologically sound way to study the likelihood of parties joining governments.

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British Journal of Political Science
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A New Approach to the Study of Parties Entering
Government
Garrett Glasgow and Sona N. Golder
British Journal of Political Science / FirstView Article / December 2014, pp 1 - 16
DOI: 10.1017/S0007123414000015, Published online: 28 May 2014
Link to this article: http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0007123414000015
How to cite this article:
Garrett Glasgow and Sona N. Golder A New Approach to the Study of Parties Entering
Government . British Journal of Political Science, Available on CJO 2014 doi:10.1017/
S0007123414000015
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B.J.Pol.S. Page 1 of 16 Copyright
r
Cambridge University Press, 2014
doi:10.1017/S0007123414000015
A New Approach to the Study of Parties Entering
Government
GARRETT GLASGOW AND SONA N. GOLDER*
Previous studies of the factors that influence the ability of parties to join governments have estimated
binary choice models using the parties as the unit of analysis, which inappropriately treats each party
in a government formation opportunity as an independent observation (a problem that clustered
standard errors do not solve) and does not allow researchers to control for important coalition-level
effects. This article demonstrates that a preferred methodological approach is to first estimate a
standard multinomial choice model (conditional logit or mixed logit) of coalition formation, using
government formation opportunities as the unit of analysis and potential governments as the choice
alternatives. The probabilities of parties joining governments can then be recovered by simply
summing the probabilities for the potential governments that contain each party. An empirical
example shows how the substantive conclusions about a party’s likelihood of entering office can
change depending on the methodological approach taken.
A number of recent studies in the government formation literature have examined the
factors that influence the ability of political parties to join g overnments.
1
These studies
treat political parties as the unit of analysis, and estimate logit or probit models to
examine how party characteristics influence the likelihood that they will enter office. This
methodological approach has two major shortcomings. First, it inappropriately assumes
that each party can be treated as an independent observation. In reality, the likelihood of
a particular party joining the government necessarily depends on the characteristics of the
other parties in the government formation opportunity. While some studies have tried to
address this problem using clustered standard errors, we demonstrate that this approach
will not completely solve this non-independence problem. Secon dly, the probability that
a party will enter office depends not only on its own characteristics, but also on the
characteristics of the potential coalitions of which it is a member. Studies that use the
party as the unit of analysis will find it difficult, if not impossible, to account for these
coalition-level factors.
In this article, we develop an approach to the study of parties joining governments that
solves these problems. We first estimate a standard multinomial choice model (conditional
logit or mixed logit) of coalition formation, using government formation opportunities as
* Department of Political Science, University of California, Santa Barbara (email: glasgow@
polsci.ucsb.edu); Department of Political Science, Pennsylvania State University (email: sgolder@psu.
edu). We gratefully acknowledge support for this project from the Research Center (SFB) 884 ‘Political
Economy of Reforms’, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). We thank also Matt Golder
and the audience at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the European Political Science Association for helpful
comments on this article. The data, codebook and all computer code necessary to replicate the results and
figures in this analysis will be made publicly available on the authors’ homepages upon publication. Data
replication sets are available at http://dx.doi.org/doi: 10.1017/S0007123414000015.
1
Alema
´
n and Tsebelis 2011; Ba
¨
ck 2008; Druckman and Roberts 2007; Isaksson 2005; Mattila and
Raunio 2004; Savage forthcoming; Tavits 2008. See also Laver and Shepsle 1996 and Warwick 1996.

the unit of analysis and potential governments as the choice alternatives. This first step is
well known in the government formation literature.
2
We then calculate the probabilities
for individual parties in each government formation opportunity by simply summing the
probabilities of entering office for all of the potential governments that contain the party.
An empirical example demonstrates that this approach can change the substantive
conclusions we draw about how key independent variables affect a party’s likelihood of
entering office.
PARTIES WITHIN GOVERNMENT FORMATION OPPORTUNITIES
In this section, we discuss why analysts should use the government formation opportunity as
the unit of analysis even if the question of interest centers on parties. We also address some
practical issues the analyst needs to consider when switching the unit of analysis, and how it is
possible to calculate the predicted probabilities of parties entering government.
Why Formation Opportunities are the Correct Unit of Analysis
In parli amentary and semi-presidenti al democracies, governments need the support of a
majority of the members of the legislature to take office. Single parties rarely con trol a
majority of seats in the legislature, so when an opportunity for a new government to form
arises, it usually entails a bargaining process among several parti es to build a coalition
that will garner majority support. Studies that ask how party characteristics affect the
probability that a party will join the government are really asking how these party
characteristics will affect the bargaining process to form a government. The previous
literature acknowledges the fact that parties do not enter government independently the
identities and preferences of the other parties involved in the government formation process
also matter. For example, the leaders of other parties might try to exclude a party from
joining the government because the party is a successortotheCommunistPartyinanEastern
European country,
3
because the party defected from a previous governing coalition
4
or
because conflicts among a party’s internal factions make it seem like an unreliable partner.
5
Alternatively, parties with previous experience in government should be more welcome to join
new governments if they have a reputation for being relia ble coalit ion part ners.
6
Numerous examples suggest that as one party in a formation opportunity becomes
more likely to join the government, this will influence the probabilities that other parties
can also join the government. For example, Andeweg and Irwin note that government
formation outcomes in the Netherlands were constrained by ‘the relations between the
parties. From 1959 to 1994, VVD (the Liberals) and PvdA (Labour) excluded each other
as coalition partners, which had the effect of reducing the options to either a centre-right
or a centre-left coalition’.
7
The difficult Belgian government formation process in 2007–08
2
Glasgow, Golder, and Golder 2012; Martin and Stevenson 2001.
3
Druckman and Roberts 2007.
4
Tavits 2008.
5
Ba
¨
ck 2008.
6
Warwick 1996. Some recent studies suggest other features that might be worth exploring in the
context of government formation. In particular, we might expect parties that appeal broadly to a diverse
group of voters (see Somer-Topcu 2012) or have stronger party organizations (see Tavits 2013) to be more
attractive to potential coalition partners.
7
Andeweg and Irwin 2009, 128.
2 GLASGOW AND GOLDER

provides another example of how one party becoming more or less likely to enter a
government affects the chances of another party entering government. At one point
during the long negotiations, the Walloon environmentalist party, Ecolo, announced
certain conditions for joining the government: first, the Flemish environmental party
(Groen!) would also have to join the government, and second, the Flemish regionalist
party N-VA could not join the government.
8
However, the Flemish Christian Democratic
Party, a key actor in the negotiation process, was unwilling to exclude the N-VA, with
which it had formed a pre-electoral alliance. Thus, Ecolos could not join the government.
In any government formation process, if one party becomes more likely to join a
government, this may well affect the likelihood of other parties joining. Empirical studies
of parties joining governments must be able to account for such relationships, and
existing studies do not do this.
Models that use political parties as the unit of analysis suffer from a second shortcoming:
they cannot account for how coalition characteristics influence the likelihood of a party
entering office.
9
For example, a party might be a member of more or fewer minority or
minimal-winning potential coalitions, depending on the characteristics of the other parties in
the government formation opportunity. This will naturally affect the probability that a
potential government enters office. Studies that use the party as the unit of analysis will find it
difficult or impossible to account for the majority status of a potential government and other
coalition-level factors. In sum, when we study parties entering governments, we are really
studying the formation of a governing coalition, and we should not treat parties in the same
government formation opportunity as independent observations.
Methodological Considerations
Previous studies of parties joining governments have used data with political parties as the
unit of analysis, and then estimated a binary choice model (logit or probit) to estimate the
probability that a party with certain characteristics enters office. This approach is flawed,
though, because it treats each party in a formation opportunity as an independent
observation, and thus fails to capture how the context of the bargai ning situation
influences the ability of parties to join governments. Binary choice models necessarily
assume that the probability that each party joins the government is independent of the
probabilities that other parties join the governm ent. To see this, consider a logit model to
estimate the probability that party j would join the government:
P
j
5
e
x
j
b
1 1 e
x
j
b
: ð1Þ
This probability only depends on the observed characteristics of party j; the
characteristics of the other parties and their influences on this probability are not
captured. In other words, this model will estimate the same probability of entering the
government for any party with the same characteristics x
j
, regardless of the bargaining
context (nu mber of parties, characteristics of other parties, etc.).
Several recent studies have acknowledged that the probability that a party joins the
government may not be completely independent of other factors. Some have included
8
See http://web4.ecolo.be/?Pas-de-tapis-vert-pour-l-orange and http://crisisinbelgium.blogspot.com/
2007/09/only-half-day-after-walloon-greens.html.
9
Ba
¨
ck 2003, 2008.
Parties Entering Government 3

country-level fixed or random effects, which will adjust all party probabilities within each
country (and most likely serve as a correction for the average number of parties in the
political system).
10
Others have used standard errors clustered on the political party or
some other unspecified unit, which will capture correlation due to unobserved factors
within each cluster (that is, correlation within the error term).
11
Neither of these
approaches addresse s the concern we raise here, though, which is that party probabilities
will depend on the observed characteristics of the other parties in the formation
opportunity and the bargaining situation itself.
Some of these recent studies also try to account for characteristics of potential
coalitions (such as minority or minimal-winning status). The authors do this by
calculating party-level variables that are meant to capture some of these coalition-level
effects. For instance, Tavits calculates the fraction of minimal-winning coalitions in which
a party holds membership, and includes that as a party-level variable in her model.
12
However, not all coalition-level characteristics can be capture d in this way. Another
problem is that this approach cannot account for the fact that some variables that
influence the government formation process might have different effects at the coalition
level versus the party level. For example, in our empirical application below we find that
incumbent coalitions are advantaged in the government formation process, while
incumbent parties are disadvantaged once we control for incumbency at the coalition
level. Models that use political parties as the unit of analysis cannot make this kind of
distinction. We need a more appropriate model of the government formation process in
order to understand how party characteristics influence the ability to join go vernments.
The approach we adopt here is to estimate a multinomial choice model, using government
formation opportunities as the unit of analysis and potential governments as the choice
alternatives. A commonly used multinomial choice model in the study of the government
formation process is the conditional logit (CL) model.
13
In the CL model, the probability that
government j is selected out of the set of K potential governments in formation opportunity i is:
P
ij
5
e
x
ij
b
P
K
k 5 1
e
x
ik
b
; ð2Þ
where b represents a vector of coefficients and x
ik
represents a vector of independent variables
associated with potential government k in selection opportunity i. Examination of Equation 2
shows that the probability that potential government j forms depends not only on the
characteristics of that government x
ij
, but also on the characteristics of the other potential
governments in formation opportunity i. The process by which governing coalitions form is
exactly the same bargaining process by which political parties join governments potential
governments are simply a set of parties, so understanding which governing coalitions are
likely to form necessarily informs us which parties are likely to join the government. Put
another way, there is no distinction between asking which coalition of parties will form the
government and asking which parties will join the government.
Problems with using CL models in particular situations such as when the independence of
irrelevant alternatives (IIA) assumption is violated or when unobserved heterogeneity across
10
Alema
´
n and Tsebelis 2011; Tavits 2008.
11
Ba
¨
ck 2008; Savage forthcoming; Tavits 2008.
12
Tavits 2008.
13
Martin and Stevenson 2001.
4 GLASGOW AND GOLDER

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Cites background from "A New Approach to the Study of Part..."

  • ...…findings: being in the median of both dimensions tends to make participation in government more likely; while ideological distance, as measured in Glasgow and Golder (2015), and the ideological range between the most extreme positions within the potential government, substantially decrease the…...

    [...]

  • ...In general, it seems that while incumbent governments are better positioned to (re-)form, incumbent parties, on the other hand, tend to be disadvantaged (Glasgow and Golder, 2015)....

    [...]

  • ...With respect to key explanatory factor (a continuous variable at the party level), its representation at the potential government level takes into account how the additional geographical concentration a party brings to the government changes the coalition as a whole (Glasgow and Golder, 2015)....

    [...]

  • ...In order to interpret the substantive effect of geographical concentration at the level of individual parties instead of governments, I follow Däubler and Debus (2009) and Glasgow and Golder (2015) who generate a counterfactual comparison in one specific situation....

    [...]

  • ...…of parties’ likelihood to join governments, rather than binary choice models, in order to control for coalition-level effects: “analysts should use the government formation opportunity as the unit of analysis even if the question of interest centers on parties” (Glasgow and Golder, 2015)....

    [...]

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TL;DR: In this article, the authors examine how a party's decision to enter a coalition government affects voter perceptions of the party's policy position and argue that, for the decision to change voter beliefs, it must be at odds with voters' prior opinions about the party.
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"A New Approach to the Study of Part..." refers background or methods in this paper

  • ...We use standard errors clustered on the formation opportunity to capture any unobserved influences that might create correlations between parties within a formation 22 Budge et al. 2001....

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  • ...Ideological distance is now measured as the weighted mean ideological distance between the members of the coalition and the median (divided by 100), with the weights for each party based on its seat share.36 29 Budge et al. 2001....

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Frequently Asked Questions (2)
Q1. What have the authors contributed in "A new approach to the study of parties entering government" ?

Link to this article: http: //journals. How to cite this article: Garrett Glasgow and Sona N. Golder A New Approach to the Study of Parties Entering Government. 

The approach the authors recommend here provides researchers with a straightforward and methodologically sound way to study the likelihood of parties joining governments.