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Luck of the Draw? Private Members’ Bills and the Electoral Connection*


The legislative agenda in most parliamentary systems is controlled tightly by the government and bills offered by individual members of parliament have low rates of success. Yet, members of parliament (MPs) do seek to present (private) members’ bills even where the rate of adoption is very low. We argue that members’ bills serve as an electoral connection but also as an opportunity for MPs to signal competence to their co-partisans. To demonstrate the presence of an electoral connection we take advantage of the random selection of private members’ bills in the New Zealand House of Representatives and show that survey respondents approve more of electorate MPs whose bills were drawn on the ballot. In addition, we show that MPs respond to the incentives created by the voters and parties’ willingness to reward legislative effort and, consequently, that electorally vulnerable legislators are more likely to place members’ bills on the ballot.

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Brian D. Williams, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Government, University of West Florida, 11000 University Parkway, Pensacola, FL 32514 ( Indridi H. Indridason, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of California, Riverside, 900 University Avenue, Riverside, CA 92521 ( The authors would like to thank Hannah Blumhardt for capable research assistance and Shaun Bowler, Jack Vowles, and the anonymous referees for useful comments and suggestions. To view supplementary material for this article, please visit 10.1017/psrm.2017.13

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Shaun Bowler . 2010. ‘Is There an “Electoral Connection” to Private Member’s Bills? Evidence From the 1997-2001 and 2001-2005 Parliaments’. Journal of Legislative Studies 16(4):476494.

Jonathan Bradbury , and James Mitchell . 2007. ‘The Constituency Work of Members of the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales: Approaches, Relationships and Rules’. Regional & Federal Studies 17(1):117145.

Thomas Bräuninger , Martin Brunner , and Thomas Däubler . 2012. ‘Personal Vote-Seeking in Flexible List Systems: How Electoral Incentives Shape Belgian MPs’ Bill Initiation Behaviour’. European Journal of Political Research 51:607645.

José Cheibub , and Fernando Limongi . 2002. ‘Democratic Institutions and Regime Survival: Parliamentary and Presidential Democracies Reconsidered’. Annual Review of Political Science 5:151179.

Gary W Cox . 1987. The Efficient Secret: The Cabinet and the Development of Political Parties in Victorian England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Christopher J Kam . 2009. Party Discipline and Parliamentary Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Peter Loewen , Royce Koop , Jaime Settle , and James H. Fowler . 2014. ‘A Natural Experiment in Proposal Power and Electoral Success’. American Journal of Political Science 58(1):189196.

Robert G. Moser , and Ethan Scheiner . 2011. ‘Strategic Ticket Splitting and the Personal Vote in Mixed-Member Electoral Systems’. Legislative Studies Quarterly 30(2):259276.

Mihkel Solvak , and Antti Pajala . 2016. ‘Sponsoring Private Member’s Bills in Finland and Estonia: The Electoral Context of Legislative Behaviour’. Scandinavian Political Studies 39(1):5272.

Thomas Stratmann , and Martin Baur . 2002. ‘Plurality Rule, Proportional Representation, and the German Bundestag: How Incentives to Pork-Barrel Differ Across Electoral Systems’. American Journal of Political Science 46(3):506514.

Kaare Strøm . 2000. ‘Delegation and Accountability in Parliamentary Democracies’. European Journal of Political Research 37:261289.

Michelle M Taylor . 1992. ‘Formal Versus Informal Incentive Structures and Legislator Behavior: Evidence From Costa Rica’. Journal of Politics 54(4):10551073.

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Political Science Research and Methods
  • ISSN: 2049-8470
  • EISSN: 2049-8489
  • URL: /core/journals/political-science-research-and-methods
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Supplementary Materials

Williams and Indridason Dataset



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