Why automated coding of party positions from manifestos may produce misleading conclusions in political research: Paper now in print

I am happy to announce that a paper co-written with Laura Morales is now available in print at Party Politics. We use different methods to extract party positions from party manifestos and compare them. The focus is on immigration and immigrant integration as topics with varying salience, and we find that automated coding does not lead to consistent estimates. We provide first investigations as to when automated methods (do not) work well to obtain party positions from party manifestos, and suggest ‘checklists’ as an efficient manual method that may be suited in many research applications — one that I have recently validated to work in a non-EuropeanWestern context.

Ruedin, Didier, and Laura Morales. 2019. ‘Estimating Party Positions on Immigration: Assessing the Reliability and Validity of Different Methods’. Party Politics 25 (3): 303–14. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354068817713122.

Ruedin, Didier. 2019. ‘South African Parties Hardly Politicise Immigration in Their Electoral Manifestos’. Politikon: South African Journal of Political Studies 46 (1). https://doi.org/10.1080/02589346.2019.1608713.

Supplementary Material for “Estimating Party Positions” on OSF/SocArXiv

I have just made available the supplementary material for Ruedin, Didier, and Laura Morales. 2017. “Estimating Party Positions on Immigration: Assessing the Reliability and Validity of Different Methods.” Party Politics available on OSF/SocArXiv. The supplement is also available at the publisher’s website, together with the article. In the paper, we systematically assess various methods to identify the position political parties take on immigration. In another paper about to be published by Party Politics, Christoffer Green-Pedersen and Simon Otjes demonstrate that immigration really has become more salient over time. All the more important it is to place parties on this issue, and our extensive evaluation finds high consistency between expert surveys, manual sentence-by-sentence coding and manual ‘checklist’ coding. On the other hand, there are inconsistent results with the CMP/MARPOR, Wordscores, Wordfish, and a dictionary approach using keywords.

Green-Pedersen, Christoffer, and Simon Otjes. 2017. “A Hot Topic? Immigration on the Agenda in Western Europe.” Party Politics, doi:10.1177/1354068817728211.

Ruedin, Didier and Laura Morales. 2017. “Estimating Party Positions on Immigration: Assessing the Reliability and Validity of Different Methods”. Party Politics. doi:10.1177/1354068817713122

Estimating party positions on immigration: Assessing the reliability and validity of different methods

ppqa_23_3.coverIt’s been in the making for a long time, but I’m happy to announce that Laura Morales and my paper on estimating party positions on immigration is now available from Party Politics. In the paper we provide a systematic assessment of various methods to position political parties on immigration based on their electoral platforms. We do this for Austria, Belgium, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK, between 1993 and 2013. There high levels of consistency between expert positioning, manual sentence-by-sentence coding, and manual checklist coding; and poor or inconsistent results with the CMP/MARPOR, Wordscores, Wordfish, and the dictionary approach. An often-neglected method – manual coding using checklists – offers resource efficiency with no loss in validity or reliability. Now there is really no excuse any more for using old CMP data and pretend that they really were about immigration… (with the new subcodes in the most recent codebook things will probably improve for the CMP/MARPOR positions).

We’ve started this as an internal project for the SOM project (hence 7 of the 8 countries), simply because we (thought we) needed party positions on immigration over time. Wary of the time it takes to manually code party manifestos, we tried a few methods. There are two more we have tried but not pursued to the same extent, namely using a dictionary of keywords and Wordfish estimates on the entire text of the party platforms (i.e. without manually selecting the parts of the manifestos that are about immigration). These are not ‘dead’ yet, but we need further tests to ensure we know what they measure.

There’s an 102-page supplement available from the journal’s website.

Stereotypes of Political Left and Right

Social scientists and politicians often talk about left and right. Here’s a very nice summary graphic on what left and right tend to stand for over at Information is Beautiful (by David McCandless and Stefanie Posavec). No, this isn’t new, but it deserves to be shared from time to time; after all the meaning of left and right doesn’t change that often either… and bear in mind that these are stereotypical associations.

Campaigning in Radical Right Heartland

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I had the pleasure to read Oliver Gruber‘s new book Campaigning in Radical Right Heartland. Focusing on Austria — home of the FPÖ — Oliver provides a detailed picture of party competition around an increasingly salient issue: immigration. The book is exceptional in that it starts in 1971 and thus is able to trace how the issue and party politics around it have evolved. Intriguing is for example how immigration has moved from the Greens towards the FPÖ in terms of salience, yet in terms of frames used there was no comparable shift. I will surely refer to it whenever my own research on the politicization of immigration touches Austria.

With a dual focus on party manifestos and press releases, Oliver’s results are surely robust, and with attention paid to twenty or so different subtopics and ten frames, Oliver heeds Joost Berkhout and my call to pay more attention to this level of analysis.

I was intrigued by the detailed frame analysis, and how frames were used to infer party positions. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to compare my own manifesto-based party positions with Oliver’s frames-based ones, but at first glance the different methods agree.

While it delivers on depth and attention to developments over time, the book doesn’t offer much in terms of comparison to other countries. I would have liked a full discussion of how the findings in Austria translate to other cases — especially because I am convinced there’s much to be learned. In this sense I can only recommend the forthcoming book from the SOM project, which includes Austria alongside six other Western European countries (it’ll come out soon with Routledge).

Oliver shows that the politicization of immigration is driven by party ideology and issue ownership. With developments over time covered in detail, the book will offer new insights to those interested in party competition and how the mainstream parties react to a popular challenger like the FPÖ.

Gruber, Oliver. 2014. Campaigning in Radical Right Heartland: The Politicization of Immigration and Ethnic Relations in Austrian General Elections, 1971 – 2013. Zürich: LIT Verlag. ISBN: 9783643905178

Ruedin, Didier, and Laura Morales. 2012. “Obtaining Party Positions on Immigration from Party Manifestos.” Presented at EPOP.

Ruedin, Didier. 2013. “Obtaining Party Positions on Immigration in Switzerland: Comparing Different Methods.” Swiss Political Science Review 19(1):84–105. DOI: 10.1111/spsr.12018

Van der Brug, Wouter, Gianni D’Amato, Joost Berkhout, and Didier Ruedin, eds. 2015 (forthcoming). The Politicisation of Immigration: A Comparative Study of Seven Countries (1995-2009). Routledge.