Measuring Policy Positions of Veto Players in Parliamentary Democracies

Part of the Studies in Public Choice book series (SIPC, volume 16)


Testing veto players theory in parliamentary systems requires researchers to have accurate estimates of policy preferences of political parties. In empirical studies, however, political scientists use remarkably context-free and invariant estimates of party positions. As a consequence, they must make assumptions about the nature of policy conflict. In the extreme, the lack of accurate estimates reduces sample sizes and increases the risk of selection bias in studies that use the ideological range among veto players as a key explanatory variable. We introduce a new automated method to identify policy relevant content in political texts. Our method “smart tags” sentences in election manifestos using portfolio-specific keywords from a legislative database. Policy positions can then be estimated on the tagged subset of relevant sentences. We apply our method to analyze the legislative positions of political parties for several portfolios in the German parliament. We show that these estimates vary over time and across portfolios – variation which cannot be produced using existing methods. We believe our method simplifies preference estimation and increases construct validity of policy preference measures used to evaluate policy-focused theories.


Policy Area Policy Position Veto Player Policy Dimension Labor Policy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors’ names appear in alphabetical order. All authors have contributed equally to all work. A previous version of this chapter was presented at the 67th Annual MPSA National Conference in Chicago, April 2009, and the Veto Players Workshop at the University of Mannheim in May 2009. We thank the participants for helpful comments and suggestions.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MannheimMannheimGermany
  2. 2.University of HoustonHoustonUSA

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