Who governs? Professional politicians, Wall Street or the people? The professional and political background of cabinet ministers in 18 parliamentary democracies

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


This paper asks to what extent changes in the profiles of politicians reflect changes in party ideology over time. Do individual politicians drive party policy or the other way around? These are critical questions for understanding political representation and political party transformation over time. To answer these questions I have collected data that map changes in the professional, educational and political backgrounds of cabinet ministers over time. This new dataset has unique biographical information of cabinet ministers in 18 parliamentary democracies from 1945 to 2012. Specifically, I have collected and coded information on the educational and professional background of cabinet ministers, their partisan affiliation and seniority in their political party, their political professional experience in the parliament and parliamentary committees as well as their experience in government cabinets. Preliminary results show that over time, ministerial professionalization has increased, measured in terms of years in the parliament as well as years in the legal profession. In addition, more economics ministers have corporate background and fewer have working-class background. These changes strongly correlate with a right-ward shift in political party ideology, as measured by political parties’ electoral manifestos.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2014
EventAmerican Political Science Association 2014 Annual Meeting & Exhibition - Washington, United States
Duration: 28 Aug 201431 Aug 2014


ConferenceAmerican Political Science Association 2014 Annual Meeting & Exhibition
CountryUnited States


  • politicians
  • political representation
  • parliamentary democracies

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