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Analyzing party competition through the comparative manifesto data: some theoretical and methodological considerations

Abstract

This paper deals with some of the theoretical and methodological concerns arising from an in-depth analysis of one of the most successful research groups in comparative politics: the Comparative Manifesto Project. The first part of the paper discusses its theoretical background: the dimensionality of the political space, the operationalisation of the saliency theory and whether through election manifestos it is possible to determine the actual party positions. The second part attempts to contribute to the methodological debate by focusing on generally neglected weaknesses of the CMP’s method with regard to both the classification scheme and the coding procedure. In particular, it shows that it is probably impossible to correct the major problems here identified without destroying their comparability across time and space, since they are so deeply rooted in the CMP’s approach.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    There have been several attempts to fix the manifesto scheme: Gabel and Huber (2000), for example, suggest simply extracting the first principal component from the 56 issues, developing an approach named the ‘vanilla method’, whereas others have retained the seven main categories in the original dataset and then extracted principal components from each category (Klingemann 1995).

  2. 2.

    If policies at the European level are discussed with respect to their impact at the national or regional level the appropriate code (108 or 110) has to be coded as well as the specific national position (Volkens 2002: 13).

  3. 3.

    An attempt to determine party positions on immigration from the CMP’s dataset is made by Alonso and da Fonseca (2009).

  4. 4.

    Liberal Democrats 2010 Election Manifesto, p.13.

  5. 5.

    Protsyk and Garaz (2011) establish a ‘neutral’ category for multiculturalism to cover the same concerns we point to here.

  6. 6.

    As Protsyk, a CMP’s scholar argues, the quasi-sentences which imply specific actions the party aims at undertaking, are to distinguished (2010: 4–5).

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Acknowledgments

A previous version of this paper was presented at the XXVIth Conference of the Italian Political Science Association, 2012, Rome, Italy. An embarrassingly large number of scholars have made valuable comments on this paper, and its various drafts. Particular thanks go to Giorgia Bulli, Giliberto Capano, Alessandro Chiaramonte, Giuseppe Ieraci, Marco Tarchi, Luca Verzichelli and Claudius Wagemann. The usual disclaimer applies.

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Correspondence to Mattia Zulianello.

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Zulianello, M. Analyzing party competition through the comparative manifesto data: some theoretical and methodological considerations. Qual Quant 48, 1723–1737 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11135-013-9870-0

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Keywords

  • Election manifestos
  • Party competition
  • Content-analysis
  • Left-right
  • Polarization