Who “Wins”? Determining the Party of the Prime Minister


  • Garrett Glasgow is Associate Professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Department of Political Science, 3719 Ellison Hall, Santa Barbara, CA 93106 (glasgow@polsci.ucsb.edu). Matt Golder is Associate Professor at Pennsylvania State University, Department of Political Science, 306 Pond Laboratory, University Park, 16802 (mgolder@psu.edu). Sona N. Golder is Associate Professor at Pennsylvania State University, Department of Political Science, 305 Pond Laboratory, University Park, PA 16802 (sgolder@psu.edu).

  • We would like to thank Nathaniel Beck, Torbjörn Bergman, Patrick Dumont, Brad Gomez, Shin-Goo Kang, Michael Laver, G. Bingham Powell, Christopher Reenock, David Siegel, Greg Wawro, and four anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on this article. We also thank audiences at the 2010 Summer Political Methodology Meeting, Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University, and Texas A&M University. The data and computer code to replicate the results and figures in this analysis, along with the online appendices that we refer to, are publicly available on the authors’ homepages: http://www.polsci.ucsb.edu/faculty/glasgow/, http://homepages.nyu.edu/~mrg217/, and http://homepages.nyu.edu/~sln202/. All statistical models were estimated using code in either R or Stata.


The prime ministership is the preeminent political post in parliamentary democracies. Yet few studies examine PM party choice, perhaps under the assumption that the choice is a simple function of party size. In this article, we argue that key strategic actors and the context in which government negotiations take place can play a critical role in PM party choice. We test our hypotheses using a mixed logit with random coefficients on an original data set comprising PM selection opportunities in 28 European countries. Our methodological approach allows us to incorporate qualitative concerns about heterogeneity and causal complexity into our analysis. Contrary to conventional wisdom, we find that the largest party is often disadvantaged when it comes to PM party choice, that some presidents play an influential role in choosing the PM, and that the value of being the incumbent depends on one’s performance in office and how the previous government ended.