Research Projects

Bevölkerungsseitige Repräsentationsvorstellungen im deutschen Mehrebenensystem – eine Analyse zu den Landtagswahlen 2023 in Bayern und Hessen (BeReDeM)

(The project is funded by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, 06/2023-12/2023)

PIs: Martin Gross and L. Constantin Wurthmann

Representation and inequality in local politics (completed)

(The project was funded by the German Research Council (DFG), 2020-2022)


Which social interests are heard in politics – whose interests are overlooked? This important question has been intensively discussed in the social sciences and in society at the national level in recent years, but the municipal level has often been disregarded. The project fills this research gap by answering the question of which societal interests are represented in municipal politics, whether inequalities can be found and, if so, how such inequalities can be explained. To answer these questions, the representation and control activities of local councils in 35 large German cities were investigated in a nationwide comparative research project by using written parliamentary questions. Due to the multi-layered use of parliamentary questions, it was possible to gain important insights into the activity of local councillors in the exercise of their representation and control function. Regarding the control function, it could be shown that the stronger control activity by opposition parties, known from the national level, is also evident at the municipal level. Not only do the opposition parties control the coalition parties in the municipal council, but also those parties that are not the mayor’s party use the tool of written parliamentary questions significantly more often than mayor’s party. Furthermore, it was shown that the multi-level structure of the political system has consequences for the patterns of political control at the municipal level, in that parties with governmental responsibility at the state level control administrative action not only less frequently, but also more conciliatory than pure opposition parties. Regarding the representational function, the project was able to show that the political context of local political action has effects on the representation of interests, in that parties in financially weaker municipalities avoid cost-intensive policy areas. It could also be shown that there is a clear relationship between parties’ issue emphasis in their election campaigns and their issue emphasis in the use of parliamentary questions. Finally, regarding the individual representation performance of the municipal representatives, it could be shown that not only typical socio-demographic factors such as gender or migration status influence the representation of social interests, but also the professional background of the political representatives. Overall, the findings tie in with numerous ongoing academic debates, so that the findings point beyond the specific application case and general insights into patterns and determinants of political representation and control can be gained with the help of municipal politics.

The project webpage can be found here:

PIs: Martin Gross and Dominic Nyhuis

Research associates: Sebastian Block and Jan A. Velimsky