Success and Failure of Parliamentary Motions: A Social Dilemma Approach

Roel Popping, Rafael Wittek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
233 Downloads (Pure)


Parliamentary motions are a vital and frequently used element of political control in democratic regimes. Despite their high incidence and potential impact on the political fate of a government and its policies, we know relatively little about the conditions under which parliamentary motions are likely to be accepted or rejected. Current collective decision-making models use a voting power framework in which power and influence of the involved parties are the main predictors. We propose an alternative, social dilemma approach, according to which a motion’s likelihood to be accepted depends on the severity of the social dilemma underlying the decision issue. Actor- and dilemma-centered hypotheses are developed and tested with data from a stratified random sample of 822 motions that have been voted upon in the Dutch Parliament between September 2009 and February 2011. The social dilemma structure of each motion is extracted through content coding, applying a cognitive mapping technique developed by Anthony, Heckathorn and Maser. Logistic regression analyses are in line with both, actor-centered and social-dilemma centered approaches, though the latter show stronger effect sizes. Motions have a lower chance to be accepted if voting potential is low, the proposer is not from the voting party, and if the problem underlying the motion reflects a prisoner’s dilemma or a pure competition game as compared to a coordination game. The number of proposing parties or a battle of the sexes structure does not significantly affect the outcome.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0133510
Number of pages18
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 28-Aug-2015



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