Abstract Legislatures have the potential to influence the politics and policies of crisis management. As such, they deserve analytical treatment from those interested in the effectiveness of state-led efforts to resolve crises. However, determining and evaluating the extent of a legislature's involvement in a crisis management process is a complicated research endeavour. The purpose of this article is to reduce this complexity by presenting a research framework that can be used for the analytical and evaluative exploration of legislatures in relation to crisis management. As the framework unfolds, insights are generated about how the interaction between politics and policy affects crisis management performance, and the ways in which interpretations of ‘success’ and ‘failure’ are constructed subjectively by crisis actors. Emerging from the framework is an argument that assessments of institutional performance must be cognizant of the ‘normative pluralism’ that characterises contemporary crises.