Current Research Projects

Institutional  Design in European Parliaments (IDEP)

The project describes and seeks to explain changes in parliamentary rules in European parliaments. On the theoretical level, we develop a rationalist model of institutional design that explains rule changes as the outcome of actors’ cost-benefit calculations under given (second-order) institutional constraints. Empirically, we map and content-code all changes to the parliamentary rules of 15 European parliaments since 1945 or the beginning of the current democratic regime. This allows for the first systematic, comparative description of the extent and expected effects of such rule changes. We evaluate the explanatory power of our theoretical model using quantitative analyses and selected qualitative case studies. In addition, the project allows time-specific measurements of various parliamentary rules that can be employed as explanatory variables in for studying a host of questions in comparative legislative research.

Project team: Ulrich Sieberer, Julia F. Keh (University of Konstanz), Peter Meißner (University of Konstanz), Wolfgang C. Müller (University of Vienna)

Funding: German Research Foundation (grant holder: Ulrich Sieberer)

Select publications from the project:

Sieberer, Ulrich, 2016, Lehren aus Weimar? Die erste Geschäftsordnung des Deutschen Bundestages von 1951 zwischen Kontinuität und Wandel, Zeitschrift für Parlamentsfragen 47 (1), 3-25.

Sieberer, Ulrich/Meißner, Peter/Keh, Julia F./Müller, Wolfgang C., 2016, Mapping and Explaining Parliamentary Rule Changes in Europe: A Research Program, Legislative Studies Quarterly 41 (1), 61-88.

Sieberer, Ulrich/Müller, Wolfgang C., 2015, Explaining Reforms of Minority Rights in Parliaments. A Theoretical Framework with Case Study Application, West European Politics 38 (5), 997-1019.

Müller, Wolfgang C./Sieberer, Ulrich, 2014 , Parliamentary Rules and Procedures, in: Shane Martin/Thomas Saalfeld/ Kaare Strøm (eds.): The Oxford Handbook of Legislative Studies, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 311-331.

Sieberer, Ulrich/Meißner, Peter/Keh, Julia F./Müller, Wolfgang C., 2014, Konzeptionalisierung und Messung formalen Institutionenwandels: Das Beispiel parlamentarische Regeln, Zeitschrift für Vergleichende Politikwissenschaft 8 (3-4), 237-262.

Sieberer, Ulrich/Müller, Wolfgang C./Heller, Maiko I. 2011, Reforming the Rules of the Parliamentary Game: Measuring and Explaining Changes in Parliamentary Rules in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, 1945-2010, West European Politics 34 (5), 948-975.

Current conference presentations:

Sieberer, Ulrich/Höhmann, Daniel, 2015, Shadowing with glass figures? A comparative analysis of committee chair powers in Western European democracies, Paper presented at the workshoo “Institutional Determinants of Legislative Coalition Management”, Tel Aviv University, November 16-19, 2015.

Sieberer, Ulrich/Keh, Julia F./Meißner, Peter/Müller, Wolfgang C., 2014, Explaining Institutional Reforms of Minority Rights in Ten Western European Parliaments, 1945-2010, Paper presented at the APSA Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C., August 28-31, 2014.

Parliamentary Voting in the German Bundestag

The project provides a comprehensive documentation and theoretical as well as empirical analysis of all roll call votes in the German Bundestag since 1949. Theoretically, it builds on current rational choice institutionalist explanations for legislative voting and party unity. In particular, we focus on the institutional incentives of the German mixed electoral system and the effects of personal MP characteristics such as seniority, standing in the party group, and further career ambitions. Empirically, we collect a comprehensive dataset of all roll votes in the history of the Bundestag and various explanatory variables referring to MP and motions. This dataset fills an important gap in German and comparative legislative research. The central methodological innovation of the project is the systematic combination of explanatory variables on the MP, party group, and motion level using multilevel modeling.

Further information is available on the project website at

Project team: Stefanie Bailer (University of Basel), Henning Bergmann (University of Bamberg), Tamaki Ohmura (University of Basel), Thomas Saalfeld (University Bamberg), Ulrich Sieberer (University of Bamberg)

Funding: Fritz Thyssen Founation (grant holders: Stefanie Bailer, Thomas Saalfeld, Ulrich Sieberer)

Select publications from the project:

Bergmann, Henning/Bailer, Stefanie/Ohmura, Tamaki/Saalfeld, Thomas/Sieberer, Ulrich, 2016, Namentliche Abstimmungen im Deutschen Bundestag, 1949-2013. Befunde aus einem neuen Datensatz, Zeitschrift für Parlamentsfragen 47 (1), 26-50.

Current conference presentations:
Sieberer, Ulrich, 2014, When do single member districts increase voting dissent under mixed electoral systems? A longitudinal study of voting behavior in the German Bundestag, 1949-2013, Paper presented at the APSA Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C., August 28-31, 2014.

The Politics of Portfolio Design in Germany

The project provides the first systematic analysis of changes in the policy jurisdictions of German federal ministries since 1949. Such changes occur frequently during government formation, receive a lot of public attention, and are relevant for various fields of political science research. Nonetheless, the topic received very little academic attention by political scientists. In this project, we develop alterative models to explain such reforms based on the dynamics of coalition politics, substantive links between policy fields, and organizational factors of the bureaucracy. Hypotheses derived from these models will be tested quantitatively using a new dataset on all changes in ministerial responsibilities since 1949 and qualitatively based on expert interviews and case studies of major reforms. The project has broader implications for and will contribute to the explanation of institutional change, coalition research, and he analysis of public policy.

Project team: Ulrich Sieberer, Daniel Höhmann (University of Konstanz)

Funding: Young Scholar Fund at the Universität Konstanz (grant holder: Ulrich Sieberer)

Select publications from the project:

Sieberer, Ulrich, 2015, Die Politik des Ressortzuschnitts zwischen Koalitionsarithmetik und thematischer Profilierung. Eine koalitionspolitische Erklärung für Kompetenzänderungen der Bundesministerien, 1957-2013, Politische Vierteljahresschrift 56 (1), 77-103.

Current conference presentations:

Sieberer, Ulrich, 2015, The Politics of Portfolio Design: A Theoretical Framework with Application to Germany, Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the European Political Science Association, Vienna, June 25-27, 2015.

Parliamentary Behavior in the Frankfurt Assembly 1848/49

The project analyzes parliamentary behavior in the Frankfurt Assembly, the first democratically elected pan-German parliament founded during the liberal revolution of 1849/49. The project collects and processes the entire roll call record of the assembly consisting of about votes. From this data, we estimate the dimensionality of political conflict in the assembly and the preferences of individual legislators. Furthermore, we study the emergence and persistence of party groups and the dynamics of legislative coalition building. The Frankfurt Assembly offers a perfect environment for testing general arguments of legislative research because many theoretically central processes such as party formation, socialization of new MPs and the emergence of parliamentary responsibility can be studied empirically over a short period of time.

Projekt team: Ulrich Sieberer, Michael Herrmann (University of Konstanz)

Funding: Zukunftskolleg at the Universität Konstanz

The Motivations of German Constitutional Judges between Law and Politics

The project analyzes the motivations of constitutional judges in Germany. Starting from the assumption that judges are policy motivated but are constrained in their behavior by legal doctrine, we investigate how judges link their ideological positions with legal arguments. We use dissenting votes that provide the only systematic source for tracing decision-making within the German Federal Constitutional Court. Based on a detailed content coding of all dissenting votes and the accompanying decisions of the second Senate of the court since 1970, we measure the frequency of dissent and identify their legal foundations. These patterns of conflict are linked to personal and political characteristics of the individual judges such as their career background and party membership. The project thus provides the first systematic analysis of both legal and political motives of constitutional judges in Germany and takes a first step towards integrating the legal and political science literatures on the German constitutional court.

Projekt team: Ulrich Sieberer, Susumu Shikano (University of Konstanz), Sebastian Sternberg (Universität of Mannheim)

Funding: Zukunftskolleg der Universität Konstanz (grant holder: Ulrich Sieberer)