Laver and Laud - Content Analysis (Methods)

Laver and Laud - Content Analysis (Methods) - Michael Laver...

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Michael Laver and John Garry: Estimating Policy Positions from Political Texts Deriving reliable and valid estimates of the policy positions of key actors is fundamental to the analysis of political competition. Policy documents represent a core source of information about policy positions of political actors. Article explores ways of extracting information about policy positions from political texts. They use computer coding to estimate policy positions of a huge number of political actors. They first review existing methods for estimating policy positions from political texts and then suggest ways to improve them. Finally they explore the impact of their suggestions upon estimates of party policy positions of key political actors. Analyzing Party Manifestos: The Story So Far Party manifestos are strategic documents written by politically sophisticated party elites with many objectives in mind. Leaves it open to debate if manifestos reflect the “real” position of the parties that publish them. They say who cares you will never know. Instead, use positions in context specific situations. Further, manifestos provide movement of policy positions over time. Manifesto Research Group Project Manifesto Research Group: The research group, code manifestos from all languages and code sentence by sentence. MRG researchers set out to measure relative emphasis placed on an issue by a party manifesto not the party’s substantive position on this issue. The Party Change Project PCP project (no it’s not angel dust) explicitly designed to extract policy positions from party manifestos. Highly structured: at most three experts were given detailed coding instructions and asked to use a party’s manifesto to locate it on each policy dimension. Data generated are explicitly concerned with party policy positions and enable more valid estimates. PCP selects 19 scales but this is not an encyclopeadic description of party policy, nor can they chart “unimportant” issues. In common with expert survey techniques, furthermore, the PCP judgments are more explicitly subjective than the basic coding decision of determining whether a particular sentence is in or out of a particular coding category. Expert Surveys As PCP illustrates, there is a continuum of techniques based on expert judgments. MRG used expert coders to analyze manifesto sentences. At the other end, is the expert survey technique of having experts locate parties at substantive positions on one or more policy or ideological dimension(s) taking account of everything they think might be relevant. Expert surveys thus have the virtue, shared with the PCP technique, of generating unequivocally positional estimates of policy on well-defined dimensions. The big disadvantages of expert surveys relative to text based coding are, first, that text based
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coding are far more valid for the estimation of a historical party positions and second, that a given text can typically be located at a precise time point so that a time line of cause and effect can be more confidently established.
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  • Fall '08
  • Glasgow,G
  • policy positions, liberal party, Labour Party, Negative campaigning, MRG

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