Is Legislative Effectiveness a Global Concern? (New Research from France)
Research centers across the globe are exploring how data can help ascertain the effectiveness of their political officials. As the Center for Effective Lawmaking has investigated the legislative performance of US lawmakers, as well as what any trends about such can tell us about our current system, we have a keen interest in learning from our international counterparts.
Researchers in France, Mexico and Brazil have created, or are in the process of creating, methodologies to analyze government officials’ activities in office. Kicking off a new blog series, the Center for Effective Lawmaking investigates the motivations for this global research and begins to assess what the work of our global colleagues can tell us about politics around the world. What do data metrics for lawmakers in other countries look like compared to our work here in the US? And what can we learn from them? Clearly, there are significant differences between the governing bodies in these countries, but what similarities exist?
Legislative Effectiveness in France
Abel Francois and Julien Navarro, researchers from University of Lille and the Catholic University of Lille, released a paper examining a Member of Parliament’s (MP’s) activities, specifically bill initiation, and its impact on future electoral results. Francois and Navarro proposed the hypothesis that “hard-working” or more active parliamentarians in the French National Assembly receive more votes in elections than do less active ones.
Why Develop an Empirical Approach?
The context and role of elected officials in France are different than the US. While French citizens can reward or punish a French MP by electing or not electing a member to Parliament, those representatives in the National Assembly are viewed as having little influence since “individual work has a limited policy impact.” If the public’s view was that an MP had little impact on actual policy creation, would their actions, or lack of actions, effect their electability? It was this question that made the National Assembly a good test case for Navarro and Francois to see if “MPs can be held accountable, individually, for their parliamentary performance.” Despite the inherent challenges in this work, researchers Francois and Navarro have developed a solid and well-thought empirical approach to investigate the impact of parliamentary actions on reelection.
Measures and Methods of French MP Activities
Francois and Navarro’s research is centered on how parliamentary activities impacted the reelection of French MPs in the 2007 election. Some of the statistics used to measure MP’s activities included:
- Written and oral questions
- Information reports
- Single-author bills
- Co-signed bills
- Successful bills
- Legislative reports
- Committee bureau
- Committee participation
Similarly, the Center uses a combination of fifteen indicators focused on the lawmaking process, including: bill sponsorship, action in committee (both similar to Francois and Navarro) and others that differ as action beyond committee, and bill significance.
French Research Findings
Navarro and Francois use statistical methods to understand the link between a French MP’s effectiveness and re-electability, much as we have done here in the US. The researchers’ original hypothesis was that the 2007 election outcome for incumbents was connected to their legislative actions (as set forth above) in the National Assembly. Statistical data confirm this finding. For example, single-author bills have a strong impact in reelection prospects; a 1% increase in single-author bills results in a 1% increase of the vote share. Even with multiple controls accounting for personal and contextual factors such as age, gender, local roots, and ministerial experience, actions and legislative record do have an impact on future electoral results. French MPs who are rated more highly as “effective” or “hard-working” have a better chance at reelection than lower-rated peers.
Legislative effectiveness is not just a concern for the US, but a subject matter that researchers around the world are diving into. Using data and statistical analysis, researchers are unearthing important evidence that could influence the culture and actions of government institutions around the world.
Next up in our “Is Legislative Effectiveness a Global Concern?” series, we’re (metaphorically) traveling to Brazil, exploring legislative effectiveness scores in the context of Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies. In the meantime, stay up to date by joining The Center for Effective Lawmaking’s email list.