Marie Kaldahl Nielsen

Personalization of Representation: A New Relationship between Legislators and Political Parties?

Changes in the foundation for politics have led scholars to claim that politics has become personalized. A development that entails that individual politicians carry more weight in the political process at the expense of political parties. Yet claims of personalization trends have not always been accompanied by empirical evidence, and research on personalization of parliamentary behavior is scarce. This dissertation advances our understanding of personalization by developing a theoretical framework for understanding why and when we should expect legislators to personalize their representation. Moreover, it contributes with empirical studies of whether there is a trend towards personalization of representation by looking at legislative party switching, parliamentary speech, individual position taking and perceptions of representation. The results show that changes in politics have led to changes in representation: more party switching, more localized focus, but not to a general trend of personalization in the sense that politicians act as independent representatives in parliament or emphasize themselves more than their party in parliamentary speeches. Further, the dissertation shows that personalized representation is a product of both legislators’ electoral situation and characteristics and the institutional setting in which they operate. This indicates that there are strong institutions that hold legislators’ opportunities and incentives to personalize their representation in check. An important implication of the findings is therefore that electoral and intra-party reforms might weaken these institutional constraints, which could lead to more personalized representation in the future. This dissertation is of interest to everyone who cares about party politics and political representation.

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