Do POS Converge Over Time?

Last week I looked at the (lack of) convergence of immigration policies over time. Today, I examine whether indicators of political opportunity structure (POS) converge over time. We collected data to examine this as part of the SOM project (description of indicators).

In the following table I consider just a few indicators of POS. I include both issue-specific and generic aspects of POS for the seven countries covered in the SOM project (AT, BE, CH, ES, IE, NL, UK).

Indicator Convergence
Effective number of parties in legislature No convergence
Seat-share of anti-immigrant parties No convergence
Political parties have special arrangements for immigrant candidates No convergence
Public money for immigrant organizations No convergence
Specific department for migration Clear convergence
Right to vote at national level, TCN All countries the same
Embedded consultation No convergence

There is no convergence for most of the indicators considered here. There is only one real exception: we observe a clear trend to have a dedicated department for migration. In 1995 only Switzerland had such an organizational arrangement, in 2010 only Austria did not have one.

POS: Are Federal Systems More Open?

In the literature on political opportunity structures (POS), it is commonly held that federalism means more access points. More access points mean more opportunities.

It does not suffice, however, only to look at the number of access points. Leaving aside the fact that some movements may not be acceptable to potential access points, more potential access points mean a greater probability of findings an ally. However, more potential allies also means that the influence of a single ally is more restricted. Therefore, it is not at all clear that the opportunity (as in getting influence on policy-making, for example) is greater in federalist systems.

In federal systems, the entry might be easier, but the impact might be limited. If an organization gets access in a more centralized system, the impact is at once more significant. For this reason, I suggest that we should expect no significant differences overall.

Perhaps there is another mechanism that favours federalism, perhaps it is the inclusive political culture? In this case we should focus on the relevant variable. Perhaps it is acceptable to concentrate on the degree of federalism as a measure of political culture (inclusiveness), but the argument would need to be a bit different.