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Budde, Emma Theresa; Heichel, Stephan; Hurka, Steffen and Knill, Christoph (14. August 2017): Partisan Effects in Morality Policy Making. In: European Journal of Political Research, Vol. 57, No. 2: pp. 427-449

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Current comparative policy research gives no clear answer to the question of whether partisan politics in general or the partisan composition of governments in particular matter for different morality policy outputs across countries and over time. This article addresses this desideratum by employing a new encompassing dataset that captures the regulatory permissiveness in six morality policies that are homosexuality, same‐sex partnership, prostitution, pornography, abortion and euthanasia in 16 European countries over five decades from 1960 to 2010. Given the prevalent scepticism about a role for political parties for morality policies in existing research, this is a ‘hard’ test case for the ‘parties do matter’ argument. Starting from the basic theoretical assumption that different party families, if represented in national governments to varying degrees, ought to leave differing imprints on morality policy making, this research demonstrates that parties matter when accounting for the variation in morality policy outputs. This general statement needs to be qualified in three important ways. First, the nature of morality policy implies that party positions or preferences cannot be fully understood by merely focusing on one single cleavage alone. Instead, morality policy is located at the interface of different cleavages, including not only left‐right and secular‐religious dimensions, but also the conflicts between materialism and postmaterialism, green‐alternative‐libertarian and traditional‐authoritarian‐nationalist (GAL‐TAN) parties, and integration and demarcation. Second, it is argued in this article that the relevance of different cleavages for morality issues varies over time. Third, partisan effects can be found only if individual cabinets, rather than country‐years, are used as the unit of analysis in the research design. In particular, party families that tend to prioritise individual freedom over collective interests (i.e., left and liberal parties) are associated with significantly more liberal morality policies than party families that stress societal values and order (i.e., conservative/right and religious parties). While the latter are unlikely to overturn previous moves towards permissiveness, these results suggest that they might preserve the status quo at least. Curiously, no systematic effects of green parties are found, which may be because they have been represented in European governments at later periods when morality policy outputs were already quite permissive.

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