Project Summary: Exogenous and endogenous shocks often affect the features and structures of national politics. A distinctive effect of crises is the electorate’s varying support for the political system and its representatives. The PhD thesis examines how different national contexts impact public officials’ behaviour and rhetoric in response to crises. The geographical scope of this study covers six countries, including cases from Europe (Germany, France, United Kingdom, and Ireland) and North America (the United States and Canada). Using automated text analysis along with other quantitative and computational methods, this project analyses legislative and executive policy-related behaviour as well as the interactions between different policy stakeholders and political actors.

Funding: Ad Astra PhD Scholarship

With Stefan Müller.

Project Summary: Do private interests predict politicians’ rhetoric and actions? Focusing on homeownership, we extend prior work on personal wealth and policymaking. Ireland provides a unique opportunity to study the legislating landlords’ behaviour: housing has become one of the most important issues. We construct a novel dataset of homeownership status between 2013 and 2021, a period characterised by constantly rising rent and property prices. We train and validate a supervised machine learning classifier and apply text scaling methods to identify salience and positions on housing in nearly 800,000 tweets and parliamentary questions. Landlords do not avoid the topic of housing and do not take different latent positions. However, we detect strategic absence in parliamentary votes on housing bills, and find that all landlords avoided to mention a recent scandal involving private property deals by a government politician. Landlords do not employ different political rhetoric, but might resist to demand concrete actions.

With Stefan Müller, Shaun Bowler, and Gail Mc Elroy.

Project Summary: Do elected representatives learn on the job? In particular, do we observe developments and improvements in their speech patterns over time? Prior work has investigated differences in issue salience, positions, and emotions in parliamentary speeches. However, the “life cycle” of political rhetoric has rarely been studied systematically. As with any job, representatives may have to learn “how to be a legislator.” This paper investigates three questions related to ‘parliamentary speech careers’. Does legislators’ rhetoric follows a fixed pattern over time, or do we observe evidence of learning? Who is it that new legislators are trying to copy? And do legislators “defect” from the party line or disengage and ‘shirk’ as their retirement date looms? We test these questions based on the (in)accuracy of predicting party labels from parliamentary speech. We validate and apply our measure to parliamentary speeches in Ireland and the United Kingdom between 1945 and 2022. Our findings contribute to our understanding of the socialisation of legislators into the parliamentary party and their representational roles.