Keeping Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer: Information Networks in Legislative Politics
In this paper we examine information exchange networks in legislative politics and challenge the idea that legislators seek objective information prior to voting on bills. We make the intuitive claim that legislators establish contacts with each other that stand to maximize the value of the information they trade. Additionally, we make the counterintuitive claim that legislators seek information from sources that are predictably biased for or against their preferred outcomes. We test the propositions derived from this argument in the context of the European Parliament, using tools from social network analysis and modeling the network dependence using a multilevel approach. This research makes two primary contributions to the field of legislative politics. First, we demonstrate both theoretically and empirically how legislators use social contacts to their strategic advantage in their pursuit of legislative information. Second, our analytical approach demonstrates how to appropriately account for interdependence of observations in network data.