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The missing piece: Measuring portfolio salience in Western European parliamentary democracies


James N. Druckman, Department of Political Science, University of Minnesota, 1414 Social Sciences Building, 267 19th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA. Tel: 612 626 1672; Fax: 612 626 7599; E-mail:


Abstract.  Although much has been discovered concerning the resources and preferences that parties take into the coalition formation game in Western European parliamentary democracies, we know a good deal less about the payoffs they receive. Portfolios constitute an important payoff, not just because they provide access to patronage, but because influence over policy decisions tends to go with control over the key government portfolios. It is easy to discover which and how many portfolios each party holds in any government, but what is missing is accurate measurement of the value or salience of these portfolios. Some attempts have been made to measure portfolio salience, but they have lacked one or more of the following properties: cross-national scope, country-specific measurement, coverage of the full set of postwar portfolios, measurement by multiple experts and measurement at the interval level. In this article, we present a new data contribution: a set of portfolio salience scores that possesses all of these properties for 14 Western European countries derived from an expert survey. We demonstrate the comprehensiveness and reliability of the ratings, and undertake some preliminary analyses that show what the ratings reveal about parliamentary government in Western Europe.

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