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The Role of Risk and Losses in Political Decision Making

  • Barbara Vis
Tuesday 5 June 2018
Turfmarkt 99
2511 DP The Hague


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About the lecture

What is the role of risk and losses in political decision making? That is the question that Barbara Vis will address in this DGA seminar. Risk is a central concept in studies on political decision making, ranging from welfare state reform, to political parties’ platform change or military intervention. Yet, there is conceptual unclarity in the literature about what it means for a decision to be risky. By proposing two main conceptualizations of risk and by demonstrating their relevance by means of examples on welfare state reform, Barbara Vis shows how to solve this conceptual unclarity. Next, she will discuss findings from her VIDI project HIGH-RISK POLITICS on the influence of losses on political decision making. Overall, these findings indicate that losses are an important factor when it comes to explaining electorally risky decisions. At the same time, the project’s results also demonstrate that not all political actors respond to the same losses. For instance, while some political parties respond to a loss of office by changing their policy platform, other parties do not. The question what exactly qualifies as losses also proves to be a challenging one. For instance, for foreign policy decisions, is it the president’s domestic standing that matters or his or her standing abroad? While we made some progress in establishing how politicians make such multi-dimensional trade-offs (Linde & Vis, 2017), this is one of the avenues for further research that Barbara Vis will discuss.

Paper will be shared with registered attendees.

About the speaker

Barbara Vis is Professor of Politics & Governance at the Utrecht University School of Governance, Utrecht University. Prior to that position, she was a Professor of Political Decision at the Department of Political Science & Public Administration of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, where she was also the Director of Research and a Member of the Management Team. Barbara Vis’s research, which was funded by VENI and VIDI grants from NWO between 2008 and 2017, focuses on the behavior of political actors – governments, political parties & politicians – especially regarding electorally risky decisions such as those around welfare state reform, party platform change or military intervention. To explain such behavior, she draws on theories and approaches from different disciplines, including political science, behavioral economics and psychology. Barbara Vis applies a range of methods in her work, from case studies to lab experiments, and in the case of Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) also develops this method.

About the seminars

Diplomacy and Global Affairs (DGA) Research Seminar Series is a series launched by the Research Group on Diplomacy and Global Affairs at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs. The seminars of internationally acknowledged guest researchers and faculty members deal with current research topics in diplomacy, international relations, global affairs, and political economy broadly conceived and target a broad audience through their interdisciplinary focus.

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