Subproject 4
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Issue characteristics and responsiveness: The case of Germany (Mäder, Rasmussen)

Many existing studies on responsiveness do not pay systematic attention to policy and issue-specific effects even if we know from the literature that policies generate different levels of conflict and controversy. Many of the most prominent studies of responsiveness are conducted at the country level or constructed in such a way that differences found between policy and issue domains are not at the focus of the analysis. Only a minority of studies have explicitly theorized about how issue characteristics affect responsiveness, yet no consensus has emerged. This subproject discusses how variation in different types of issue characteristics (such as saliency, policy type and the ideological character of issues) may affect responsiveness. Moreover, it considers how the partisan climate and the electoral context in which the issues are debated affect the chances that public decision-makers translate public wishes into policy. Our hypotheses are tested on a new, unique dataset on political responsiveness in Germany, including more than 140 specific policy issues falling within the jurisdiction of the German national government and on which the public expressed its preferences in the time period from 1998 to 2010. The dataset allows us to link public preferences for change on a given issue to the likelihood of subsequent policy change across a number of different types of issues.

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