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Open Access Senior Thesis

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Bachelor of Arts

Reader 1

Eric Helland

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Conscience voting in the New Zealand House of Representatives offers a unique opportunity to assess Sam Peltzman’s ‘Principal-Agent Theory’ as outlined in his 1984 paper, Constituent Interest and Congressional Voting.

In this thesis I will conduct a brief of assessment of the principal-agent model (and other literature regarding parliamentary representation) before looking at the New Zealand Parliamentary system as well as the phenomenon of private member’s bills and how they aid the legislative process before exploring the dataset of conscience votes that have occurred since the inception of the mixed-member proportional (MMP) electoral system in 1996. This is then followed by an analysis of the conscience voting patterns of the 52nd Parliament and an attempt to form an ideology score for each Members of Parliament present since the 45th Parliament, based purely off of a subset of these conscience votes. This followed upon by regression and statistical prediction analysis that aims to capture a measure of legislative shirking as well as assessing the strength of the principal-agent theory when it comes to conscience voting and the various principals that comprise it. Finally, I aim to qualitatively assess the motives behind conscience voting in the New Zealand House of Representatives by discussing conscience voting with several current Members of Parliament who were present during the 52nd Parliament session, including Dr. Deborah Russell, Tim van de Molen and Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki, before concluding with a final discussion and assessment of the topic of conscience voting in the New Zealand House of Representatives.