Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Politisches Verhalten im Vergleich


Please find below summaries of externally funded research projects we have been conducting with the generous support of a variety of funding agencies: 
  1. The impact of COVID-19 on public support for the European Union (COVIDEU) for the Funding Initiative "Challenges for Europe"
  2. Interest Groups and the Ministerial Bureaucracy in Germany: Studying lobbying success at the administrative stage
  3. Policy-Making in Coalition Governments: The Enactment of Coalition Agreements
  4. Bringing policies back in: Explaining payoff allocation in coalition governments
  5. Interest Representation in Germany: A Longitudinal Study Of Interest Groups Registered At The Bundestag
  6. Framing of Public Policy Debates
  7. Citizen Interests, Interest Groups And Legislative Activity: A Longitudinal Study Of Interest Representation In Germany
Heike Klüver is furthermore involved in the following international collaborative research projects:



Detailed description of the projects


The impact of COVID-19 on public support for the European Union (COVIDEU)   


  • Research grant awarded by the VolkswagenStiftung               
  • Principal investigator: Heike Klüver                                      Logo_VolkswagenStiftung_RGB_100.gif
  • Funding volume: € 1.494.800
  • Project period: January 2022 - December 2025


On 6 April 2020, Angela Merkel declared that the “COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest challenge for the European Union in its entire history”. While the pandemic is a truly transnational challenge that can best be dealt with jointly, it has the potential to divide the Union. Governments’ initial responses were uncoordinated, domestically focused and nationalistic, resorting to extraordinary measures, such as mobility restrictions, social distancing requirements and border closures. For the European Union (EU) in particular, the challenge was stark as the early measures taken in response to the crisis - closing borders and restricting travel - could be seen to roll back core aspects of European integration. In addition, the prominent role of the EU in vaccine procurement has resulted in harsh criticism as EU vaccine approval came comparatively late, and the EU is blamed for having bought too little, too late and at times from the wrong producers. Moreover, as the economic consequences of the pandemic are becoming more apparent, the crisis puts greater pressures on the EU’s ability to coordinate an effective response to the economic downturn. This raises important questions about how an exogenous shock, such as this pandemic, affects public support for the EU. In this project, we therefore investigate how this crisis has influenced Eurosceptic attitudes, solidarity with fellow Europeans and the electoral performance of Eurosceptic parties.
To study how the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced EU support, we develop an innovative theoretical framework that combines insights from political behaviour, social psychology and political communication. The core idea is that people compare national and EU responses and take cues from domestic governments, political parties and the media when forming opinions about the EU. We study the impact of the pandemic through six work packages that are clustered into three pillars. In the first pillar, we investigate how the policy measures adopted by national governments and EU institutions have affected eurosceptic attitudes, European solidarity and the performance of Eurosceptic parties. In the second pillar, we examine how political actors, namely governments, political parties and social movements have influenced EU support. Finally, in pillar three, we study how media framing and fake news have influenced public support. To answer these questions, the interdisciplinary team of leading scholars from political science, sociology and economics relies on an original multi-method approach combining survey, observational and geocoded data with natural, survey and field experiments as well as innovative natural language processing technologies. The team covers expertise from Central, Eastern, Southern and Northern European countries which allows for studying the effect of the pandemic across the EU.
Studying how the corona crisis has affected EU support is important for two reasons. First, our project will generate important insights into how the EU can be made more resilient in future crises. Questions of how to design policy instruments to address a crisis, how to coordinate policy responses among member states and how to communicate to the public are questions that are of utmost relevance to any future crisis. Our project will therefore allow us to provide policy-makers with evidence-based recommendations on how to maintain and even increase popular support for the EU in times of crises and to ultimately ensure the future viability of the EU. Second, studying public opinion towards the EU in response to COVID-19 provides a unique opportunity to theorize and empirically test expectations on what drives EU support. In contrast to previous crises, the pandemic has hit all European countries, albeit to a different extent and at different time points. While all countries took extraordinary measures, there is important variation in the policy instruments and the responses by political actors across EU countries and over time. The pandemic therefore constitutes an opportunity that allows for applying innovative causal inference designs which promise important insights for better understanding what drives EU support.


Interest Groups and the Ministerial Bureaucracy in Germany: Studying lobbying success at the administrative stage (MINISTERIALLOBBY)  


  • Research grant awarded by the German Science Foundation (DFG) dfg.jpg
  • Principal investigators: Heike Klüver and Kai-Uwe Schnapp
  • Funding volume: € 363.800
  • Project period: September 2021 - August 2024


Ministries are central players in German policy-making as one of their major tasks is drafting legislative proposals. It is therefore no surprise that they are an important lobbying target for interest groups that seek to influence legislation in Germany. Even though ministries regularly interact with interest groups, there is no systematic research on the extent to which interest groups are able to successfully lobby the drafting of legislative proposals in Germany. In this research project, we therefore aim to close this important gap in the literature by pursuing two major objectives. First, we will develop a comprehensive theoretical framework in order to explain lobbying success. We conceptualize lobbying as an exchange process in which the minister, as the central political actor in a ministerial department, trades influence on policies for information, public, especially electoral support, and economic resources, while bureaucrats trade openness first and foremost for information. We expect that interest groups that can deliver these goods are in a particularly good position to successfully lobby policy-making. In addition, we argue that the decisive level of analysis is not an individual interest group. Instead, lobbying success can only be understood if we take into account the aggregated supply of these goods by issue-specific lobbying coalitions. Finally, we theorize that the issue context affects the exchange relationship as the effect of information supply is expected to increase with the complexity of policy proposals. Second, we will test our theoretical expectations by compiling a new dataset on the lobbying success of interest groups with regard to 50 selected policy proposals introduced to the Bundestag throughout the year 2019. We will measure the preferences of interest groups and the location of the policy output before and after the agenda-setting and policy formulation stage, in order to draw conclusions about the winners and losers of decision-making processes at the ministerial stage. Our findings will have major implications for our understanding of policy-making and political representation in Germany.


Policy-Making in Coalition Governments: The Enactment of Coalition Agreements (COALITIONPOLICY)  


  • Research grant awarded by the German Science Foundation (DFG) dfg.jpg
  • Principal investigator: Heike Klüver
  • Cooperation partner: Hanna Bäck
  • Funding volume: € 500.900
  • Project period: October 2018 - September 2021



Why do coalition governments (not) comply with the policy commitments they have made in coalition agreements? Before coalition governments take over executive offices, they typically engage in intensive coalition negotiations and publish a comprehensive coalition agreement in which they provide a detailed account of the policy reforms they plan to enact in government. Even though these coalition agreements are not legally binding, they importantly constrain the behaviour of cabinet parties as coalition parties can be publicly blamed for not complying with the promises they have made in the coalition agreement. However, previous case study evidence shows that only about two thirds of all the policy reforms promised in coalition agreements were actually enacted. Despite the central importance of coalition agreements for the legislative behaviour of multiparty cabinets during their time of office, the literature has been primarily devoted to studying the formation and the survival of coalition cabinets while our knowledge about policy-making in multiparty cabinets during their time of office is still scarce. We therefore aim to close this important gap in the literature by pursuing two major objectives. First, we will develop a comprehensive theoretical framework that conceptualizes the enactment of coalition agreements as a process that is simultaneously affected by internal cabinet factors (salience, conflict, preference tangentiality, bargaining power) and external factors (public opinion, economic performance, institutional veto-players). Second, we will test our theoretical expectations by compiling a new and comprehensive dataset on the enactment of more than 100 coalition agreements negotiated by multiparty cabinets in 24 West and East European countries from 2000 until 2015 and by combining this novel dataset with information on cabinet features, public opinion, economic performance and institutional characteristics. Understanding the reasons for (non) compliance with the policy commitments made in coalition agreements does not only have important implications for understanding how policy-making in multiparty cabinets - which are the most frequent type of government across European countries - works, but also for political representation more generally as voters evaluate governments to a large extent based on their performance in office.


Bringing policies back in: Explaining payoff allocation in coalition governments



  • Research grant awarded by the German Science Foundation (DFG) dfg.jpg
  • Principal investigator: Heike Klüver
  • Cooperation partner: Hanna Bäck
  • Funding volume: € 334.394
  • Project period: October 2014 - September 2017


How do coalition parties allocate payoffs? To what extent do political parties get what they want in terms of their programmatic stance and with regard to ministerial portfolios when they enter a coalition government? Political parties forming a coalition government join forces for the purpose of entering government, but they pursue different policy objectives and compete for offices. Coalition parties therefore have to come to an agreement with regard to policies that should be implemented during the time of office and with regard to the allocation of ministerial posts. At the beginning of the legislative term, coalition parties therefore engage in intensive bargaining. They negotiate the allocation of ministerial posts and formulate a coalition agreement that sets out the policy priorities for the upcoming term. While the literature on coalition governments has devoted considerable attention to explaining which parties are likely to form coalitions and to predicting the allocation of ministerial portfolios (see e.g. Laver & Schofield 1990; Laver & Shepsle 1996; Martin & Stevenson 2001), the allocation of policy payoffs has largely been neglected. Since understanding how policies and offices are distributed in coalition governments has crucial implications for political representation and the responsiveness of policy-makers to citizens, we aim at filling this important gap in the literature. We pursue two major goals in this research project: First, we will develop a theoretical framework that conceptualizes coalition negotiations as a two-dimensional process in which parties simultaneously bargain about the allocation of policy benefits and ministerial portfolios. Second, we will empirically test our theoretical expectations by compiling a novel dataset on policy payoff allocation that is based on a content analysis of coalition agreements negotiated by more than 400 coalition governments in 27 West and East European countries and by combining this new dataset with information on portfolio allocation, cabinet and party characteristics.



Interest Representation in Germany: A Longitudinal Study Of Interest Groups Registered At The Bundestag


  • Research grant awarded by the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung thssen.jpg
  • Principal investigator: Heike Klüver
  • Funding volume: € 100.000
  • Project period: October 2013 - September 2015
  • Project investigator: Elisabeth Zeidler



Interest groups are an important channel through which citizens, companies and public institutions can transmit their policy preferences to decision-makers. In order to make their voice heard, like-minded constituents have to get mobilized by establishing and maintaining interest groups that lobby decision-makers in favor of their common policy objective. However, empirical research shows that the number of interest groups varies considerably across policy domains. The bias in interest group mobilization seriously undermines political representation as some societal interests dominate the political debate while other voices are hardly heard. This research project therefore seeks to solve this empirical puzzle by explaining why interest group density varies across policy sectors. The proposed research project pursues two major goals: First, this research project will develop a theoretical framework that explains interest group density in Germany by building on previous models developed for the study of interest groups in the United States and extending these models to account for the specificities of the German political system. Second, the theoretical expectations will be tested by mapping the interest group population in Germany from 1974 until 2014 drawing on the lobbying register of the German Bundestag. Using this novel and worldwide unique longitudinal dataset, the proposed research project will test the formulated theoretical expectations to unambiguously identify the determinants of interest group density.

Framing of Public Policy Debates


  • Research grant awarded by the American National Science Foundation nsf-logo.jpg
  • Funding volume: $ 300.000
  • Collaborative research project with Frank Baumgartner and Christine Mahoney
  • Affiliated with INTEREURO Project funded by the European Science Foundation
  • Project period: August 2011 - June 2014


The project seeks to enhance the study of framing and policy processes in the EU. Framing can determine which interests mobilize, how many actors mobilize and getting everyone to debate an issue "on your terms" can dramatically improve one's chances of reaching one's policy objectives. Interest groups and policy-makers therefore often try to shift attention to the dimension or frame that strengthens their position on an issue, but they cannot single-handedly redefine an issue since all other actors are simultaneously trying to do the same. We hypothesize that framing success varies according to variables located on two different levels: On the interest group level, we assume that the type of frame put forward and the resources of actors strongly affect the success of individual framing efforts. On the issue level, framing success is expected to vary according to the number of actors employing the same frame, the heterogeneity of those actors and their aggregated resources. Drawing on new quantitative text analysis techniques, we will analyze interest group framing across 120 randomly selected policy issues based on their press releases and submissions in consultations. We will be able to identify major frames brought up by interest groups and to examine to what degree the European institutions have taken up the different frames. By doing so, we can assess which frames were successful in shaping the legislative debates. Drawing on scaling techniques, we will furthermore be able to determine the dimensionality of policy debates and to draw conclusions about the linkage between the number of dimensions and the likelihood of negotiated settlement. Our project will be conducted in coordination with the INTEREURO research project which is a collaborative research project in which 17 scholars from various European universities are involved to study interest group politics in the European Union. We will thus contribute to a large and growing infrastructure for the study of interest groups and policy-making in the EU.

Citizen Interests, Interest Groups And Legislative Activity: A Longitudinal Study Of Interest Representation In Germany


  • Research grant awarded by the British Academy ba.jpg
  • Principal investigator: Heike Klüver
  • Funding volume: £ 7,124
  • Project period: September 2011 - August 2012



Even though interest groups are important transmission belts that link citizen interests with governmental policy, we still know little about the determinants of interest group formation. The literature is characterized by competing hypotheses: Whereas some argue that interest group formation is caused by citizen preferences and governmental activity, others by contrast suggest that interest groups in fact influence citizen interests and the legislative agenda. Unfortunately, most studies rely on cross-sectional data which do not allow to judge the direction of the effects. Drawing on a new longitudinal dataset that combines data about the German interest group population from 1973 until 2010 with information about citizen interests and legislative activity, I am able to determine the direction of the relationship between citizens, interest groups and governmental activity and to thereby shed light on the role of organized interests in democratic politics.


Mitteilungen des Instituts




Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät
Institut für Sozialwissenschaften
Unter den Linden 6
10099 Berlin



Institut für Sozialwissenschaften
Universitätsstraße 3b
10117 Berlin