Veto Player Theory and Reform Making in Western Europe

Mariyana Angelova, Hanna Bäck, Wolfgang C. Müller, Daniel Strobl

Veto player theory generates predictions about governments’ capacity to change policy. However, due to the difficulty of identifying significant laws needed to change the policy status quo, veto player hypotheses have mainly been evaluated using data on outcome variables such as government spending, taxation and budget structures and rarely for actual reform making. Accordingly, evidence about governments’ ability to introduce policy change is provided for a limited number of reforms and single-country studies. To evaluate veto player theory across time, policy areas and countries, we gathered a dataset which incorporates about 5,600 important government reform measures in the areas of social, labor, economic and taxation policy undertaken in 13 Western European countries from the mid-1980s until the mid-2000s. Our results provide conditional support for the theory’s main expectations. We find that government ability to introduce reforms decreases with the ideological distance between the veto players in the political system, but only for partisan veto players in minimal winning cabinets, where each party is a veto player by virtue of its parliamentary seats. We also find that the number of reforms increases with greater ideological distance between the current government and the policy status quo.

Department of Government
External organisation(s)
Lund University
No. of pages
Publication date
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
506014 Comparative politics
Portal url