Department of Political Science

The merits of adding complexity: non-separable preferences in spatial models of European Union politics

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This paper challenges the assumption of separable preferences that has been applied throughout the existing empirical research on European Union (EU) legislative politics. Yet our analysis reveals that non-separable preferences are in fact a widespread phenomenon in EU politics. In many cases actors' spending preferences are conditional upon the expected policy outcome, but not vice versa. In order to appropriately model such non-reciprocity, we propose a simple modification to the standard Euclidean utility function. Applying simulation techniques, we demonstrate that overlooking non-separable preferences may have caused a substantial bias in the empirical evaluation of competing models of EU legislative politics. Specifically, models that constrain the set of feasible outcomes to either the Winset and/or the core must rely on a correct specification of actors' utility functions. Therefore, a false assumption of core separable preferences significantly disadvantages these models vis-a-vis unconstrained models. Moreover, our findings underline the agenda-setting power of the European Commission for proposals that involve either a spending decision or the delegation of power from the national to the European level.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Theoretical Politics
Pages (from-to)546-575
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • European Union, legislative politics, spatial models, POWER, PARLIAMENT, POSITIONS, AGENDA, TEXTS

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