The following papers are currently under review or in progress. Please contact me if you are interested in obtaining the most up to date draft.
Updated: April 27, 2014
Works in Progress
Bevan, Shaun, John Lovett and Frank Baumgartner. “Popular Presidents Can Affect Congressional Attention, for a Little While.”
Abstract: When the president chooses to speak about certain policies in the State of the Union speech, does Congress respond with a greater proportion of its legislative attention focused on the policies emphasized by the president? We show that it depends on the popularity of the president, but that the effect is short-lived. Further, this is unaffected by divided government: A popular president has the capacity to affect the agenda even of the rival party, at least for a little while. We discuss the theoretical as well as the measurement implications of our study. The significant short-term effects and the negligible long-term effects can lead to a misleading null effect when data are analyzed on an annual basis, as is common in the literature.
Bevan, Shaun. “Political Effects on Group Populations.”
Abstract: Groups are one of the most important means for political representation, yet what in general explains their numbers? Following from the literature on social movements and interest groups I build a broader time series perspective to group density. Using data from the Encyclopedia of Associations Project data on national level voluntary associations I test how the political environment and the group system affect group numbers. I find that the number of groups is persistent with curvilinear growth rates and that government attention has positive effects on group populations. However, counter to expectations, public attention negatively affects the number of groups.
Bevan, Shaun and Mona Krewel. “Responsive Elections: The Effect of Public Opinion on Political Campaigns.” (Presented at the Annual Midwest Political Science Association Conference, Chicago, Illinois, April 11-14, 2013; Presented at the World Association for Public Opinion Research Annual Conference, Boston, Massachusetts, May 14-16, 2013; Presented at the Comparative Agendas Project annual meeting, Antwerp, Belgium, June 27-29, 2013).
Abstract: Political campaigns exist so that electoral candidates and parties can pursue votes, but what explains their content? It is clear that a lot of thought (and a lot more money) go into election campaigns, but the issues political actors focus on and those that they avoid are not well understood. In this paper we consider the responsiveness of the 2009 German Federal election campaigns to public priorities expressed through the “most important problem” survey question. Through the use of time series models of daily media reports of campaigns and rolling cross-section survey data on the attitudes of individual voters we find evidence that the 2009 German Federal election campaigns were responsive to public priorities and the attention of opponent campaigns. However, the focus of the campaign on the party or an individual candidate led to more and less responsiveness respectively. These results suggest that political campaigns dynamically respond to public opinion and each other, but that the nature of the campaign can lead to drastic changes in the level of responsiveness exhibited.
Bevan, Shaun and Zachary Greene. Looking for the Party? Partisan Effects on Issue Attention in UK Acts of Pasliament." (Presented at the Annual Political Studies Association Conferences, Cardiff, UK March 25-27, 2013; Presented at the Comparative Agendas Project annual meeting, Antwerp, Belgium, June 27-29, 2013).
Abstract: Political parties matter for government outcomes. Despite this general finding for political science research, much of the recent work on public policy and agenda-setting has found just the opposite; parties generally do not matter when it comes to explaining government attention. While the common explanation for this finding is that attention is different than policy, this explanation has never truly been tested. Through the use of data on nearly 65 years of UK Acts of Parliament this paper presents a detailed investigation of the effect parties have on issue attention in UK Acts of Parliament. It demonstrates that elections alone do not explain differences in the policy agenda. Instead, the parties’ organizations, responses to economic conditions, and size of the parliamentary delegation influence the agenda as a whole following a party transition.
Bevan, Shaun and Will Jennings. “Dynamic Agenda Representation in Comparative Perspective.” (Presented at the Annual European Political Science Association Conference, Barcelona Spain, June 20-22, 2013; Presented at the Comparative Agendas Project annual meeting, Antwerp, Belgium, June 27-29, 2013).
Abstract: Dynamic agenda representation represents the transmission of the priorities of the public onto the policy priorities of government. This paper considers the relationship between public priorities and policy agendas in the US, UK, Denmark, Canada, Spain and the Netherlands. Through the estimation of time series cross-sectional models we find that national governments in countries with a greater vertical division of powers (i.e. federalism) exhibit higher responsiveness. Within countries, responsiveness is higher for institutions used for agenda-setting and subject to lower friction (i.e. executive speeches compared to legislation). We also find that executive speeches exhibit lower responsiveness for issues relating to “core” policy responsibilities of government (the economy, law and order, defense, foreign affairs, and government operations), but find the reverse in legislation. Public opinion leads executives to attend to issues outside their core policy responsibilities and causes legislatures to trespass on policy responsibilities typically left to the executive.
Froio, Caterina, Shaun Bevan and Will Jennings. “Party Mandates and the Politics of Attention: Party Platforms and the Policy Agenda in Britain.” (Presented at the Comparative Agendas Project annual meeting, Antwerp, Belgium, June 27-29, 2013)
Abstract: This paper develops an attention-based model of party mandates and policy agendas, where parties and governments are faced with an abundance of issues, and must divide their scarce attention across them. In government, parties must balance their desire to deliver on electoral mandates with a need to continuously adapt their policy priorities in response to changes in public concerns and to deal with unexpected events and the emergence of new problems. Parties elected to government also have incentives to respond to issues prioritised by the platforms of their rivals. To test this theory, the paper uses time series cross-sectional models to investigate how the legislative programme of British government responds to party platforms, the executive agenda, issue priorities of the public and mass media, over the period from 1983 to 2008.
Bevan, Shaun and Zachary Greene. “Shifting Policy or a Shuffled Administration: The Effect of Partisan Transition on UK Statutory Instruments.”
Abstract: What effect does a partisan transition of government have on the bureaucratic agenda? In the UK the sanctioning power of the government on the bureaucracy mixed with the degree of bureaucratic autonomy creates a perfect case to separate the effects of transition on the bureaucracy. This paper considers the details of the UK system in combination with parties and public policy literatures to argue that the main effect of transition on the bureaucracy is administrative and not policy focused. Through the use of a new time series dataset of all UK statutory instruments from 1987 to 2008 it finds through graphical and intervention analyses that the transition to New Labour government in 1997 had a clear effect on the administrative focus of the bureaucracy. Results for the policy focus of the bureaucracy are weaker and more mixed. Combined these results suggest that the seeming contradictory parties and public policy literatures may in fact both be right when it comes to partisan effects on governing.
Bevan, Shaun and Zachary Greene. “Still Looking for the Party? Cross-National Partisan Effects on Agenda Stability.”
Abstract:Mounting evidence shows parties’ influence on policy outcomes. However, studies of policy attention find mixed evidence of their impact, instead finding that policy attention is more reactive to world events. Despite this mixed support, a rigorous examination of the partisan hypothesis has yet to be completed in a cross-national framework. Combining data on policy output from the Comparative Agendas Project, we present a detailed investigation of parties’ effect on policy stability in five advanced industrial democracies over more than 40 years. In particular, we propose a theory that reconsiders parties as dynamic organizations. Parties’ organizational characteristics and goals determine their impact on policy attention. Government parties with larger legislative delegations are more capable of influencing policy. We also expect parties’ responses to worsening economic conditions to differ. Our analysis finds a strong effect for party transitions in power and that party organizational characteristics along with their coalition context constrain their ability to impact policy.
Chaqués-Bonafont, Laura, Mary Layton Atkinson and Shaun Bevan. “Gender and Issue Attention: Comparing Great Britain, Spain and the United States.”
Abstract: The goal of this paper is to analyze to what extent the increasing presence of women in Parliaments has an impact on the political agendas in Spain, the UK, and the US for the last three decades. We test whether significant differences exist on the agendas that women prioritize in the legislature; whether there are variations as a result of increasing feminization; and whether these differences are increasingly linked to party competition. To answer these questions, we use databases created by the Comparative Agendas Project that provide topic-coded oral questions (for Spain and the UK) and bill introductions (for the US). Using these data, we examine the degree to which gender differences exist in legislative agendas. Further, we examine the role institutional and political factors play in shaping these difference (such as type of government, the ideology of the party in power, and the number of women in office). In this sense, we provide a completely new systematic comparative analysis of the role of women play in shaping policy dynamics in Spain, the UK and the US.
Greene, Zachary and Shaun Bevan. “How Many Parties? A More Sensitive Approach to Measuring the Effective Number of Parties.”(Presented at the Annual Elections, Public Opinion and Parties Conference, Lancaster, UK, September 13-15, 2013).
Abstract: The Effective Number of Parties measure has had a pronounced influence on political science research. This measure, based on an economic measure of market concentration (the Herfindahl index), calculates the probability that two parties selected at random represent the same type. However, measures of diversity using this index are insensitive to rare categories (such as small parties) leading to the implication that studies may under predict the degree of variability or instability in party systems. Importantly, we argue that this measure may bias analyses towards finding stability. To adjust for this insensitivity, we propose an easy to calculate measure of diversity based on Shannon’s H, a measure from information science with recent applications to the study of public policy and agenda-setting. Through simulations, real world examples and a replication of Clark and Golder’s (2006) reanalysis of Duverger’s Law we show that a measure of the effective number of parties calculated from Shannon’s H better reflects the diversity of parties within a system. Overall, our findings demonstrate that studies interested in the number and relative strength of parties in a system should use a measure of diversity based on Shannon’s H rather than a Herfindahl index.
Bevan, Shaun, Enrico Borghetto and Marcello Carammia. “Changing the Transmission Belt: The Programme-to-Policy Link in Italy between the First and Second Republic.” (Presented at the Comparative Agendas Project annual meeting, Reims, France, June 14-16, 2012; Presented at the Società Italiana di Scienza Politica Conference, Rome, Italy September 13-15, 2012).
Abstract: This article analyzes the consequences of the Italian transformation from a system with no alternation to a system with perfect alternation on the transmission of party priorities into legislative outputs. In line with Klingemann et al. (1994), we make use of two theoretical lenses: mandate theory and agenda-setting theory. According to mandate theory, government alternation should create the conditions for a significant and positive effect of policy priorities on legislative output for parties in government. The agenda-based approach does not question the existence of a mandate effect. Rather, it argues that mandate politics illuminates only part of the picture, as the priorities of opposition parties also find their way to the legislative agenda (Green-Pedersen and Mortensen 2010). Since the possibility of alternation to government implies a greater vulnerability of the majority to oppositions’ attacks, the ‘opposition effect’ should also be stronger when government becomes contestable. To counter blame and maximize their reelection chances, governing parties will be more rather than less willing to accommodate the opposition’s priorities in their legislative agenda. In sum, they will have greater incentives to take-up opposition’s issues.
Bevan, Shaun and Peter John. “Policy Representation by Party Leaders and Followers: Evidence from UK Prime Minister’s Questions.” (Presented at the Annual European Political Science Association Conference, Berlin, Germany, June 21-23, 2012).
Abstract: This article shows how party leaders and backbenchers use their access to UK Prime Minister’s Questions to represent their policy agenda. Building on comparative research on parliamentary questions and agenda setting, we argue that party leaders and followers draw attention to different kinds of policy topics. Based on a content analysis of over 9,000 questions between 1997 and 2008, our analysis demonstrates how the content of questions varies by party and institutional procedure, according to whether questions come from the front bench or elsewhere as well as between government and opposition. The findings demonstrate that Prime Minister’s Questions helps both the opposition and backbenchers draw attention to issues that the government does not always wish to attend to.
Bevan, Shaun and Will Jennings. “The Calculus of Peakedness in Politics: Introducing a Dynamic Measure of Kurtosis.”
Abstract: Punctuated equilibrium theory has increasingly become the dominant theory of the policy process. However, its dynamics and the key concept of friction the driving force behind the theory are not well understood. In this paper introduce a new, dynamic kurtosis measure we call moving window l-kurtosis (MWLK) that produces a continuous measure of l-kurtosis over time allowing for a dynamic test of several elements of agenda-setting theories including friction. Through the use MWLK in US Budgets we find support for punctuated equilibrium theory and the concept of friction by demonstrating a dynamic connection between the peakedness of a distribution and friction. These results further support the value of MWLK in the study of agenda-setting. Furthermore, we believe that MWLK may have wide ranging applications across several fields of science.
Tosun, Jale, Shaun Bevan and Robert H. Cox. “Framing Support for Renewable Energy: A Comparison of Election Manifestos in Germany and the US.”
Abstract: This paper reports the findings from a pilot study that asks two simple research questions: What are the ways political parties frame support for renewable energy? Was there an increase in the use of frames that emphasis the economic benefits of renewable energy after the global economic crisis hit in 2007/2008? Data is collected from the election manifestos of the German political parties for the federal elections between 1990 and 2009 and the US political party platforms for the presidential elections between 1992 and 2008. Our findings show that political parties use four main types of positive frames: environment-related, economy-related, energy-related and international politics-related frames. There are hardly any differences across the use of the four different frames across the German political parties. As concerns the US political parties, we see that in addition to environment-related frames, the Republicans tend to focus more on issues of energy supply, whereas the Democrats put more emphasis on the economy-related aspects. Concerning the impact of the 2007/2008 crisis, we find no effect for the German political parties, while in the US, only the Democrats confirm our expectation of an exclusively economy-focused framing.
Bevan, Shaun and Will Jennings. “The Politics of Attention and Agenda Diversity: an Analysis of the Public Agenda in the United States.” (Presented at the Annual Elections, Public Opinion and Parties Conference, Exeter, UK, September 9-11, 2011.)
Abstract: The selection of particular issues or problems for attention is at the heart of understanding politics. While the public has preferences across a large number of matters, it is faced with a multitude of competing issues and concerns and cannot attend to all of them at once. Furthermore, the public agenda is typically measured through survey instruments that require respondents to make a forced choice about the importance of issues, such as questions about the “most important problem”. The public agenda is therefore bounded and finite and involves the selective allocation of attention. This paper explores the effect that the salience of economic issues has on the overall distribution of attention across the public agenda, crowding out attention to other issues. It uses information entropy as its measure of the diversity of the public agenda and uses time series data on the aggregate-level public responses to Gallup’s “most important problem” (MIP) question in the United States from 1947 to 2007. In addition, to demonstrate the substantive and practical importance of these arguments, we replicate two studies of agenda responsiveness and agenda representation to explore how controlling for the finite space available for issues on the public agenda (i.e. selective attention), excluding economic issues, may help refine our models of democratic representation.