Immigration-related speechmaking in a party-constrained parliament: Evidence from the ‘Refugee Crisis’ of the 18th German Bundestag (2013–2017)

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The 18th Bundestag term was marked by a high salience of the refugee and asylum issue dominating the political agenda. Taking this context as a case study, this paper asks which factors make legislators talk about immigration on the parliamentary floor. Three different literatures provide different answers to this question. A first literature highlights that immigrant-origin legislators with a visible background may have intrinsic motives to talk about immigration. A second literature raises attention to legislators’ personal vote-seeking incentives to talk about immigration when the issue is electorally decisive. Contrary to these first two literatures, a third literature posits that legislative debates do not provide legislators the leeway to follow individual motives on the parliamentary floor, but that parliamentary party groups (PPGs) control access to the parliamentary floor and thus follow own strategies when allocating floor time to speak about the immigration issue. To examine this puzzle of competing expectations, a corpus of more than 10,000 speeches is leveraged, utilising a structural topic model, a novel method of quantitative text analysis. Results suggest that legislators’ speech attention to the refugee and asylum issue in the 18th Bundestag was mainly shaped by PPG specific factors rather than by their individual motives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-222
Number of pages22
JournalGerman Politics
Issue number2
Early online date11 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2020

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