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.

New publication: How South African Parties Do Not Politicize Immigration in Their Manifestos

I am happy to announce a new publication on how South African parties do not politicize immigration in their electoral manifestos, despite many indications that we can expect them to do so. In a country where xenophobia appears widespread, we can expect political parties to politicize immigration and take positions against immigrants.

In this paper, I wanted to do two things. On a methodological side, I wanted to know whether the approaches to coding electoral manifestos we have developed in the context of European parties works elsewhere. I have applied them to the US context, but South Africa would provide a tougher test. The keyword tests worked fine, and the qualitative discussions with colleagues were encouraging to press on. On a substantive side, I wanted to know whether South African parties as parties drive politicization, or whether individual politicians do so. The systematic analysis of the electoral manifestos reveals that parties as organizations do not politicize much against immigrants and immigration. In this sense, we cannot find evidence for this supposedly perverse upshot of the post-apartheid nation-building project where parties would politicize against immigrants to bolster internal cohesion: not parties as formal organizations. From other research and the media we know, though, that individual politicians certainly play a role in politicizing immigration in South Africa.

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.

Ruedin, Didier. 2019. ‘Attitudes to Immigrants in South Africa: Personality and Vulnerability’. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 45 (7): 1108–26. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369183X.2018.1428086.

Ruedin, Didier, and Laura Morales. 2018. ‘Estimating Party Positions on Immigration: Assessing the Reliability and Validity of Different Methods’. Party Politics OnlineFirst. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354068817713122.

Now in print: Attitudes to immigrants in South Africa: personality and vulnerability

I’m happy to announce that my article on attitudes to immigrants/foreigners in South Africa has finally made it into print. Most of the academic literature on the topics focuses on the Western world; here I show that the same mechanisms seem to apply more generally.

Part of the motivation for this article is quite topical at the moment: the common view in South Africa that we cannot discern patterns in who is more opposed to immigrants, and the view that South Africa is somehow an exceptional case. Another motivation was to test the validity of the work we do on Western countries.

Heerden, Sjoerdje van, and Didier Ruedin. 2019. ‘How Attitudes towards Immigrants Are Shaped by Residential Context: The Role of Neighbourhood Dynamics, Immigrant Visibility, and Areal Attachment’. Urban Studies 56 (2): 317–334. https://doi.org/10.1177/0042098017732692.
Pecoraro, Marco, and Didier Ruedin. 2016. ‘A Foreigner Who Does Not Steal My Job: The Role of Unemployment Risk and Values in Attitudes toward Equal Opportunities’. International Migration Review 50 (3): 628–66. https://doi.org/10.1111/imre.12162.
Pecoraro, Marco, and Didier Ruedin. 2019. ‘Occupational Exposure to Foreigners and Attitudes towards Equal Opportunities’. Migration Studies. https://doi.org/10.1093/migration/mnz006.
Ruedin, Didier. 2019. ‘Attitudes to Immigrants in South Africa: Personality and Vulnerability’. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 43 (7): 1108–26. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369183X.2018.1428086.

MIPEX? MIPEX!

A colleague recently commented that he is confused where I stand with regard to the academic use of MIPEX data. Apparently I have been rather critical and quite enthusiastic about it. I guess this sums it up quite well. I’ve always been critical of the (historical) lack of a theoretical base for the indicators used, and the often uncritical use of the aggregate scores as indicators of ‘immigration policy’ in the literature. I’m enthusiastic about its coverage (compared to other indices), the effort to keep it up-to-date, and the availability of the detailed data.

A few years back, I verified that it is OK to use the MIPEX as a scale (as is often done), highlighting redundancy in the items and that such scales could be improved:

In the context of the SOM project, we have demonstrated that it is feasible to expand the MIPEX indicators back in time. We did so for 7 countries back to 1995. I refined these data by using the qualitative descriptions provided to identify the year of the change, giving year-on-year changes since 1995 for the 7 SOM countries. These data are experimental in that they rely on the documentation and not original research. If that’s not enough, Camilla and I have then created a complete time series of the MIPEX indicators in Switzerland since 1848. This showed that we definitely can go back in time, but also that quite a few of the things MIPEX measures were not regulated a century ago.

Even with the short time in the SOM data, these data are quite insightful:

Later I provided a different approach: re-assembling! The idea is generic and does not apply to the MIPEX alone: make use of the many indicators in the database, but use your own theory to pick and choose the ones you consider most appropriate (rather than be constrained by the presentation in the MIPEX publications). I have demonstrated that the MIPEX data can be used to closely approximate the Koopmans et al. data, but immediately cover a wider range of countries and observe changes over time. Now we can have theory and coverage!

And yes, we can apply these data to gain new insights, like the nature of the politicization of immigrant groups:

Paper on Attitudes to Immigrants in South Africa out Now

I am happy to announce that my paper on attitudes to immigrants in South Africa is now available at the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (JEMS). It all started with a literature on xenophobic violence I could not quite believe. This quote sums it up quite nicely: “All South Africans appear to have the same stereotypical image of Southern Africans.” (Mattes et al. 1999, p.2). It went across what I knew about attitudes to foreigners elsewhere, and crucially I did not come across an explanation why South Africa would be such an exceptional case. Having churned the numbers, I come to quite a different conclusion. Not only are there discernable patterns in South African attitudes to immigrants, but indeed:

When implemented to reflect the specific context, research on attitudes to immigrants appears to generalise to non-Western contexts.

So this paper serves a dual purpose. On the one hand, it shows that what we have learned in Western Europe and North America does indeed seem to apply elsewhere. This is an important test of validity. On the other hand, it presents research on an under-researched country and indeed continent! In a context where xenophobic violence is a recurring phenomenon, I demonstrate that we do not have to tap entirely in the dark.

Supplemental material on OSF, where I also linked a short summary of the research.