Comparing government agendas: Executive speeches in the Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Denmark

Peter Bjerre Mortensen, Christoffer Green-Pedersen, Gerard Breeman, Laura Chaqués-Bonafont, Will Jennings, Peter John, Anna M. Palau, Arco Timmermans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


At the beginning of each parliamentary session, almost all European governments give a speech in which they present the government's policy priorities and legislative agenda for the year ahead. Despite the body of literature on governments in European parliamentary democracies, systematic research on these executive policy agendas is surprisingly limited. In this article the authors study the executive policy agendas-measured through the policy content of annual government speeches-over the past 50 years in three Western European countries: the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Denmark. Contrary to the expectations derived from the well-established "politics matters" approach, the analyses show that elections and change in partisan color have little effect on the executive issue agendas, except to a limited extent for the United Kingdom. In contrast, the authors demonstrate empirically how the policy agenda of governments responds to changes in public problems, and this affects how political parties define these problems as political issues. In other words, policy responsibility that follows from having government power seems much more important for governments' issue agendas than the partisan and institutional characteristics of governments. © The Author(s) 2011.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)973-1000
Number of pages27
JournalComparative Political Studies
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011


  • elections
  • executive speeches
  • issue agendas
  • politics matters


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