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Hurka, Steffen; Kaplaner, Constantin (2020): Are popular and powerful committees more representative? Evidence from the ninth European Parliament. In: Research & Politics, Vol. 7, No. 2, 2053168020914453
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Abstract

The standing committees of the European Parliament perform crucial policy-making functions and, accordingly, the question of how they are composed assumes great relevance. Unlike previous studies, which primarily looked at committee assignments from the perspective of individual MEPs, we assess the representativeness of entire committees by comparing their preference distributions with those we find in the plenary on the left/right and pro/anti EU dimension. For our analysis, we combine new data on committee memberships in the ninth European Parliament with data on policy preferences of national parties from the Chapel Hill Expert Survey. In order to assess committee representativeness, we calculate the extent to which the preference distributions of committees and the plenary overlap. We show that committee representativeness is a function of committee popularity and power. Committee popularity provides party groups with a larger pool of applicants to choose from and since popular committees are often also quite large, the formation of representative committees is facilitated. Moreover, the party groups of the European Parliament have stronger incentives to form balanced committee contingents for powerful committees, resulting in higher committee representativeness. However, this latter finding is qualified by two outliers and we only find the hypothesized relationship to hold on the pro/anti EU dimension.