Social Identities in the European Parliament

Dr. Colette S. Vogeler
Prof. Nils C. Bandelow
Ms. Johanna Hornung

Research on voting behaviour in the European Parliament has identified partisan politics, personal ideological beliefs and national preferences as central determinants (Hix, 2002; Kreppel and Tsebelis, 1999). Within this research strand ideological inclination is often subsumed under party affiliation. Depending on the policy field, there is mixed evidence whether MEP’s vote along party lines or along national lines.
By drawing on the emerging Social Identities in the Policy Process (SIPP) perspective, we argue that social group membership may further contribute to the understanding of voting behaviour within the European Parliament. SIPP assumes that policy actors act in accordance with their salient social identity. In the policy process organizational, local, sectoral, demographic and informal identities are relevant (Hornung, Bandelow, & Vogeler, 2018). To explore whether social identities play a role in decision-making in the European parliament we analyse the respective identities of MEP’s and connect these with voting behaviour over different policy issues by means of a quantitative comparative analysis. We operationalize organizational identity with party affiliation, local identity with nationality, sectoral identity with committee membership and demographic identity with gender and age. The informal identities must be addressed in future qualitative case studies. To test our argument we compare decisions in different policy fields in the 8th term of the European Parliament and thereby test the recently developed SIPP hypotheses at the European level.

Hix, S. (2002). Parliamentary Behavior with Two Principals: Preferences, Parties, and Voring in the European Parliament. American Journal of Political Science, 46(3), pp. 688-698.
Hornung, J., Bandelow, N. C., & Vogeler, C. S. (2018). Social identities in the policy process. Policy Sciences, online
Kreppel, A., & Tsebelis, G. (1999). Coalition Formation in the European Parliament. Comparative Political Studies, 32(8)