Department of Political Science

On-Going Research

Advance Research (Manuscripts in Preparation or Under Review)

Democratization of Candidate Selection Processes and its effect on a Party’s Electoral Fortune: Evidence from a Cross-National Analysis

Recent decades have witnessed an ever growing body of literature that describes and examines candidate selection procedures consequences. Often times these consequences were portrayed in negative colors. Thus,it has been argued for example that primaries weaken party discipline and increases ideological heterogeneity within it or that they increase politicians’ dependence on money and hence may facilitate corruption. Nonetheless despite its negative consequences if democratized selection processes improves a party’s electoral fortune, it would be very hard, to say the least, to convince party leaders (and the public for that matter) to abolish primaries and adopt more restrictive selection processes. Since a party’s prime goal and because a politicians’ main motivation is to increase seat shares and get re-elected (respectively), to the degree to which primaries promote these means, it would be considered a justified end. But is that the case? Do primaries improve electoral fortune or is it just a myth? This paper tries to answer this question by using a newly collected dataset with information on 472 parties.

The stability of instability: governmental Instability in Israel and governmental reforms, under review [in Hebrew]

Argument concerning the Israeli political system’s instability, its government’s fragility and the frequent elections are cited as the main reasons for reforming the governmental and electoral systems. The instability arguments are made by politicians, scholars and even the media. Yet, often times these arguments are not supported in reality, and generally, there is a lacuna in an empirical analysis of Israel’s political system and governmental stability, which locates Israeli in the broader comparative prism. The first part of the chapter will examine four aspects related to governmental stability which comparing Israeli to 20 democratic parliamentary countries: first, I will examine the legislature’s stability, second the governments’ stability, third, ministerial stability and lastly instability in light of the no-confidence procedure.

The findings from the first part demonstrate that indeed in most parameters the Israeli system does not differ from Western advanced parliamentary systems. Nonetheless, supporters of the electoral and governmental reform proposals in Israel keep framing the political-public discourse in terms of instability and issues of non-governability. The second part of the chapter will survey the discourse of instability which focusing on parties’ manifestos and coalitions agreements during the last 3 decades. In addition, I will specifically examine the framing of the last elections—the elections for the 20th Knesset—in terms of instability and the need for governmental reform. The third part of the chapter will examine whether the above mentioned framing of the Israeli systems’ instability and the frequent elections affect public opinion about the necessity of governmental reform. To this end I conducted survey experiment in the Israeli National Election Study survey whereby respondents were randomly assigned to one of two groups, while the first was exposed to an instability framing, and the second to a stability framing. The results of the survey experiment clearly indicate that negative farming, which emphasizes the fragility of the Israeli political system and its instability encourages respondents to support governmental reform, when the overall highest affect is associated with the center supporters. The results of the survey experiment thus demonstrate that despite “objective” empirical findings, the negative framing is sufficient to encourage public support in governmental reform. The more the supporters of the reform and the advocates for a presidential system in Israel continue presenting the political system as fragile and unstable, the greater the mass media frame the Israeli political reality in negative colors, and the more dissatisfied Israeli citizens becomes from the Israeli democratic systems, the greater the citizens’ tendency to support the reform.

Politics without Regression: a Bayeisan Study of the Case of Israel. with Gyung-Ho, Jeong, Itai Sened, and Yanai Sened.

In this paper we make some roadways towards addressing a long overdue topic in the subfield of legislative politics, namely, legislative outcomes: bills. We rely on a recently articulated comprehensive theory of legislative behavior (Schofield and Sened, 2006) to push the envelop one notch further and promote the study of legislative outcomes. This is a neglected, but absolutely critical topic to address if we wish to pretend to know what legislative politics is all about. We use a recently developed technology of computing the uncovered set (Bianco, Jeliazkov and Sened 2004) to connect a well known theory of the feasible set of legislative outcomes with Schofield and Sened’s (2006) theory of legislative behavior and provide some initial empirical computations of uncovered sets in the Israeli legislative body to demonstrate the usefulness of the exercise and the insight that can be obtained from it. We conclude by pointing at the direction of what we believe to be the next step in this line of research, namely the direct estimation of bill location in the same spaces we have been estimating legislators’ ideal points and computing uncovered sets (Clinton and Meirowitz, 2003, 2004; Jeong, 2008). The uncovered set seems to be establishing itself as a very potent predictive set for legislative environments. What remains is to estimate the actual locations of final bills to directly test the viability of this predictive set and, more importantly to cover this crucial missing link in the study of legislative politics.

Ongoing Research

Knesset Members’ Voting Behavior and Voting Dimensionality in the Knesset- 1992-2015, with Burt L. Monroe

I have collected and am currently in the process of  analyzing a unique data set of Knesset Members’ individual level voting record from 1992 till 2015. The data includes approximately 40,000 votes, and covers 7 terms of the Knesset. Each vote taken on the Knesset’s floor is also hand classified according to the vote type and the vote topic. The topic includes: infrastructure, finance, government, foreign policy, the legal system, education, IDF, health, the civil society, security, procedural, transportation, local government, the economy, the Knesset, media, religion, safety, internal security, scs (society, culture and sport), the environment, and the Israeli State.

Example 2 dim IRT model of the 13th Knesset (1992-1996) [not final version]
Example 2 dim IRT model of the 14th Knesset (1996-1999) [not final version]


How Electoral Incentives Shape Individual Parliament Members’ Rights.

Parliamentary procedures are the ‘modus operandi’ of the legislature. They define its structure, specify the way it works and delineate parliament members’ rights. Parliamentary procedures also affect legislators’ relative strength and governments’ ability to control the legislature and the legislative process. The proposed study examines parliament members’ rights and presents a theory of cameral procedure change that results from the electoral environment. I hypothesize that governments’ incentives to curtail legislators’ rights are affected by the legislators’ electoral motivations to emphasize their individualistic behavior: when legislators are motivated to emphasize individualistic behavior and start behaving in an undisciplined manner, governments are incentivized to curtail cameral procedures. Yet, I argue that an individualistic electoral environment does not necessarily lead to restrictive cameral rules. Even if the government is incentivized to limit MPs’ rights, it is not always capable of doing so. Ultimately, the same MPs who are elected under individualistic electoral rules need to approve those restrictive procedural changes. Hence, I offer several hypotheses about factors affecting governments’ ability to enact restrictive cameral procures, such as the government’s majority size and the levels of public trust the parliament enjoys.

The proposed study seeks to advance several goals: First, I aim to descriptively examine the often-neglected institution of cameral procedures. I will collect and analyze a large data set on cameral  procedures in both parliamentary and presidential systems. My application of a unified classification scheme of MPs’ rights to this data set will enable scholars in the future to research myriad related topics, such as the effect of changes in MPs’ rights on MPs’ behavior (i.e., private member bill initiation and behaviors on the floor, including question asking and voting).

The second goal is to examine whether governments strategically manipulate cameral procedures so as to curtail MPs’ rights when the electoral environment incentivizes MPs to behave in an  individualistic manner. The study will provide new insights into the factors that affect governments’ incentives and ability to change cameral procedures to restrict legislators’ rights—and therefore behavior. This goal will be achieved using both a case-study analysis of the Israeli Parliament (the Knesset) and a broad cross-national analysis based on data gathered from democratic parliaments worldwide, combining macro and case-specific scrutiny.

The proposed research will advance our theoretical and empirical knowledge about intra-cameral procedures and how they shape and define MPs’ rights. Not only will I collect an invaluable data
set on cameral procedures in democratic countries, but also I will illuminate the factors that affect their manipulation. By systematically collecting, classifying, and examining parliamentary cameral procedures and by studying whether cameral procedures are used to curtail MPs’ incentives to behave individualistically, I will bridge a data gap in the subfield of legislative studies, add to our understanding of legislators and their behavior, and strengthen our knowledge of democratic institutions.


Electoral Efficiency and Electoral Reform. with Brian Crisp

Electoral rules are widely recognized as incentive structures influencing the behavior of voters, individual politicians, and political parties. What explains the decision to reform these formal institutions? Shugart has hypothesized that electoral systems which are “extreme” in intraparty and/or interparty terms will be prone to provoke reform. We use a cross-national, time-serial dataset to explore the incidence of electoral reform. We seek to determine whether extremism predicts reform and the extent to which the specific reforms undertaken moderate the system on interparty and intraparty dimensions.