How Responsive is the German Parliament?

Democracy is a procedure to legitimate contested decisions even to those who opposed them. No one can expect to get his or her way in each and every decision. If, however, political decisions systematically reflect the political preferences of some groups but not of others, the principle of political equality is harmed. New studies on political responsiveness analyze whether or not decisions confirm to the citizens’ will and if so, whose will prevails. For the United States, a number of studies have found a pattern of selective responsiveness, in which the interests of the poor are all but ignored. Comparative studies point in a similar direction. In this projekt, we ask whether similar patterns are discernible in Germany. We analyze more than 800 detailed survey questions posed between 1980 and 2013. These questions deal with specific political decisions debated at the time. For each of those we first calculate the degree of support within different social groups. Respondents were grouped according to measures such as income, occupation, education, gender, region and age. Our database “Responsiveness and Public Opinion in Germany (ResPOG)” also includes information on the policy domain of a question and whether or not the specific policy change dealt with in the question was enacted within the next two or four years. Our results show a notable association between political decisions and the opinions of the rich but none or even a negative association for the poor.