Estimating the Policy Position of Political Actors

Estimating the Policy Position of Political Actors

Estimating the Policy Position of Political Actors

Estimating the Policy Position of Political Actors

Synopsis

This book gives an up to date reference on the state of the art in this highly important methodological area, which is central both to theoretical models of party competition and to empirical accounts, whether these are case studies or comparative analyses. It looks at subjects including tracking estimates of public opinion and party policy intentions in Britain and the USA; the policy space of party manifestos; and party platforms and voters' perceptions. Its panel of respected contributors reviews the refinements which have been made to established techniques as well as considering the potential and early successes of computer coding.

Excerpt

Following the remarkable success of the introduction of economic approaches to the study of political processes in the 1950s, the broad field of rational choice theories and spatial analyses expanded rapidly into the dominant trend of present-day political and social research. The grounds for this development are obvious. Expressions of specific standpoints and interests are key factors in representative democracies, and economic exchange models appear to be very adequate to analyse the dynamics of political decision-making processes based on distinct policy positions among voters, politicians, and political parties. Besides, theoretical rigour and clarity, systematisation, generalisation, deductive reasoning, and the opportunity to formulate precise predictions are all presented as notable advantages by adherents of this approach. These common characteristics of substantive and conceptual 'nearness' and scientific rigidity contributed a great deal to the massive spread and popularity of rational choice theories and spatial analyses in the last decades.

Yet, despite all complexities, building sophisticated mathematical models seems to be less problematic than applying these models to genuine political processes in a non-trivial way. Whereas model builders always have the comforting strategy at hand of relying on assumptions and axioms, empirical researchers have to deal with actual complications of measuring concepts and interpreting ambivalent results. Justified doubts about the validity and reliability of data spoil the life of many students of real political processes. How to find an intelligent way between the Scylla of theoretical infertility and the Charybdis of empirical triviality? If the quality of the data to be used could be estimated appropriately, the remaining time and energy would be available for further development of even more sophisticated theoretical models and to test them in actual decision-making processes. In other words: high quality data are required in order to apply advanced models in realistic settings. Contributing to this intricate double goal - quality assessment of data in the context of relevant applications - is exactly what the authors of this volume aim at.

In order to deal with the complicated aspects of quality assessment, the contributors to this volume analyse empirical evidence available to estimate

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