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.

A General Class of Social Distance Measures

In a new paper, Graham Brown and Arnim Langer introduce a general class of social distance measures. They follow the general feeling that many measure of diversity and disparity may be closely related by demonstrating how they are all related. By clarifying how these different measures are related, we should find it easier to choose an appropriate measure for the analysis at hand.

The one thing I’m still not convinced is the title of the paper: While they clearly define what they mean by social distance, my sociological training keeps interfering and social distance doesn’t seem fit to express a characteristic of a society. Perhaps it’s easier to talk of the more concrete instances of ethnic diversity, or income disparity.

Brown, Graham K., and Arnim Langer. 2016. ‘A General Class of Social Distance Measures’. Political Analysis, March, mpw002. doi:10.1093/pan/mpw002.

Call for papers and panels: Responses to International Migration in Contemporary Europe, ECPR 2016

Strong economic demand has driven immigration to European countries, and many studies have investigated its impact and the reactions to immigration. At the same time, there is a long European tradition of non-economic migration formed by asylum seekers and refugees, which attracted its share of studies. However, since the economic downturn after 2008 and more recently the large increase in asylum applications from the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans, it is unclear whether our understanding of the responses to immigration remain valid. Circumstances have changed, combining economic pressures, high unemployment rates, with the inflow of new people; fears of strains on public resources have been evoked, ultimately threatening social cohesion and with that governance and democracy. This section will review existing theories and approaches in light of the new circumstances. A wide spectrum of reactions to immigration and its impact will be considered to provide a comprehensive assessment to what extent our understanding needs to be updated to match real-world developments.

A first set of contributions examines public opinion and attitudes towards immigrants and asylum seekers. While the inflow of immigrants is typically viewed with scepticism and opposed by some sections of society, recent research has highlighted that public attitudes may follow complex patterns. For example, during the last decade opposition to immigrants seems to have increased in the UK, while it appears to have decreased in France and Italy. Recent economic and non-economic changes in Europe make the present an ideal “laboratory” to review and refine past approaches that increasingly appear simplistic and undifferentiated.

A second set of contributions examines media reports and the framing of immigrants and asylum seekers. The media is the channel through which most people learn about immigrants and their (alleged) impact on destination countries. Yet, systematic analyses of how different groups of immigrants are presented in the media, and what arguments are provided to do something about immigration remain sparse. While media portrayal is of interest in itself, the combination of media data with public opinion or policy data promises new insights in the mechanisms and dynamics of opinion formation and policy-making.

A third set of contributions examines policies and changes in legal frames in reaction to recent developments. For decades European countries have developed innovative policies to attract immigrants to meet economic demand. Policy reactions after the beginning of the recent economic downturn, and particularly in face of the large inflow of asylum seekers in 2015 – often described as an “asylum crisis”, remain unexplored. Tensions between economic and non-economic assessments are likely to come to the fore, as are debates about multi-level governance and cooperation among European countries. It will be fruitful to compare the revived debates on irregular immigration in the US with debates on asylum seekers in Europe – many of which are unlikely to obtain asylum under the traditional rules of the Geneva Conventions. Similarly, there is little research on policy developments on family reunion or on integration of immigrants observed across European countries, like the Netherlands, France and in the UK.

A fourth set of contributions focuses on party politics and coalition formation. The raise of radical right-wing and anti-immigrant parties has been studied extensively, but relatively little is known how mainstream parties react to the changed circumstances and how they position themselves on immigration. The positions of mainstream parties have repercussions on policy-making, and of particular interest is how coalitions are affected. Across Europe, coalition governments have become more prominent in the last two decades, but existing research has almost exclusively focused on single party governments. Relevant research examines dynamics within coalitions, both in the presence and absence of a strong anti-immigrant party.

A final set of contributions focuses on the methods most appropriate to capture the evolving responses to immigration. Contemporary methodological debates in political science should also be applied to the field of migration. Of particular interest is how innovations and contemporary debates from other fields of political science can be extended to immigration studies, and which methods are most appropriate to capture the changing and diverse reactions to immigration across Europe.

The section will be of wide interest, not only to migration scholars, but also to political scientists focusing on party politics, public policy, public behaviour, or political economy. With that, the section will provide a venue for multi-disciplinary exchange against the backdrop of increasing specialization in the social sciences. Papers can focus on a single case, draw on comparisons, and use experimental or observational methods; qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods are equally welcome in this exchange across sub-disciplinary boundaries.

We welcome paper and panel submissions via the ECPR website by 15 February 2016.

The section will be chaired by João Carvalho, an advanced post-doctoral researcher at the Centre of Research and Studies in Sociology, Lisbon University Institute. He has chaired a section at the 8th ECPR General Conference in Glasgow (“Bridging Worlds: Political Parties and Migration”). He is an active researcher, known for his 2013 book “Impact of Extreme Right Parties on Immigration Policy” with Routledge, and his recent contribution to Parliamentary Affairs (“The Effectiveness of French Immigration Policy under President Nicolas Sarkozy”). He has recently obtained a grant to study support and opposition to immigration in Portugal.

Didier Ruedin is a senior researcher at the University of Neuchâtel and visiting research fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand. He is known for his work on attitudes towards foreigners, the politicization of immigration, and political representation (“Why Aren’t They There?” with ECPR Press). He has recently obtained a grant to study attitudes towards foreigners using panel data in a comparative manner.

How (Not) to Study Ideological Representation

David Broockman has an important paper on political representation apparently forthcoming in LSQ.

He notes two ways to study the political representation of issues, policies, and preferences. On the one hand we can examine citizen-elite congruence issue by issue. On the other hand, we can calculate “policy scores” to capture ideal points of overall ideologies and compare these between citizens and the elite. The paper convincingly demonstrates that the latter approach is flawed in the sense that it doesn’t really capture political representation in the way we generally understand it.

Broockman, David E. 2015. “Approaches to Studying Policy Representation.” Legislative Studies Quarterly.

Little Green Books by Sage

Is this the most useful book series ever? Since 1976, Sage has published over 170 little green books. More formally known as the Quantitative Applications in the Social Sciences (QASS), this book series provides short and accessible texts on all kinds of quantitative methods. Need to know more about fixed effect models or factor analysis, look no further!

Given their concise nature, the little green books are quite affordable, especially when compared to specialist treatments of methods more generally. Despite the growing number of online tutorials, these books still have a role. I tend to find them more comprehensive and balanced in coverage, and often more accessible.

Unfortunately, only very few of the books are updated — this seems to be at odds with the claim to be cutting-edge. There is no easy way to get the books online, except some of the most recent ones (Google Play seems to have most of them as scanned PDF, though). At a time when competitors like Springer sell (methods) chapters online, this is something hard to understand. The little green book offer a quick introduction and offer help to researchers with specific questions; this is why they probably want to be accessed instantly. That said, the little green books, like many academic books, may be targeting libraries more than individuals. A PhD student may not find $19 so competitive, especially when there are good online tutorials and Stack Overflow out there.