, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 55-79

Towards a New Methodology of Estimating Party Policy Positions

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In the last twenty years, an international group of political scientists has coded nearly 2000 party manifestos with the help of one single coding scheme based on 56 categories which covers all main topics of these documents. However, there is a growing awareness of the shortcomings of the underlying coding scheme, such as overlapping and missing categories, which cannot be repaired without coding all manifestos all over again. Some have presented an alternative for manifesto-research by means of expert opinions on party policy positions, but these are unable to provide reliable time series for subsequent election years. The unborn solution to some of the problems with the coding scheme would be the computerised content analysis on digitalised party manifestos. This would open up a new universe of infinite possibilities for recodings and reanalyses. The extended consequences from full computerisation of textual analysis are mind boggling. But at the present, these possibilities are merely potentials as the computerised techniques are still underdeveloped. This article explores the possibilities for computerised content analysis in such a way that all postwar manifestos in established democracies can be compared with each other with the help of flexible coding schemes.