New Article in Legislative Studies Quarterly

In a new article, Lukas Hohendorf, Ulrich Sieberer, and Jonas Wenzig examine roll-call vote request and its effects on opposition-party voting behavior in the 19th German Bundestag (2017-2021).

Data on roll-call votes (RCVs) are readily available and reliably measurable, which is why they are extensively used in parliamentary research. However, in most parliaments RCVs are only used upon explicit request, which may lead to sampling bias. This raises two questions: Why do parties request RCVs on some votes rather than on others, and how does the voting method affect parties’ voting behavior?

The analysis of a new dataset covering all votes in the 19th German Bundestag shows that roll-calls and non-recorded votes systematically differ on key characteristics such as salience, type of motion, and to some extent, motion sponsor. Votes on salient topics have a significantly higher likelihood of being conducted via roll-call. A similar effect is observed for bills compared to other types of motions. Additionally, opposition motions are more frequently subject to roll-call votes compared to government proposals, though this effect is statistically significant only for votes on bills.

Although RCVs are not a representative sample of all votes, further analysis of voting behavior indicates that opposition voting behavior does not differ systematically depending on the voting method (with the exception of motion type). Most opposition parties vote consistently across both voting methods; only the AfD exhibits significantly more conflictual behavior on roll-call votes.

These results have three important implications: On a theoretical level, they challenge the established assumption that parties strategically alter their voting behavior depending on the expected reaction of the electorate. Methodologically, the analysis highlights the need to differentiate clearly between the representativeness of an RCV sample and a potential selection bias with regard to specific outcome variables. Substantively, the results bolster the credibility to previous work using RCVs to study opposition behavior in the Bundestag. RCVs provide a valid basis for studying government-opposition dynamics in the Bundestag and produce results that are representative of parliamentary voting behavior beyond recorded votes.


Hohendorf, Lukas/Sieberer, Ulrich/Wenzig, Jonas (2023): Recorded votes as attention booster: How opposition parties use roll calls and nonrecorded votes for position taking in the German Bundestag, 2017–21, Legislative Studies Quarterly.

The data and replication material is available at