PolBeRG seminar - Ideological Developments on the US Political Landscape

Date: 
November 22, 2013 - 17:30 - 19:00
Building: 
Nador u. 9, Faculty Tower
Room: 
908
Event type: 
Event audience: 
Presenter(s): 
Levente Littvay
CEU contact person: 
Martin Mölder

In this seminar Levi Littvay will be presenting two short papers that he has co-authored with Erin Jenne and Juraj Medzihorsky. The papers address some of the more pronounced recent developments on the political landscape of the United States. Both papers apply computerized content analysis that is applied in the first case to the presidential debates of 2008 and 2012 and in the second case to the party platforms of the two major parties, but also the primary outflanking movements in the period 1992 to 2012. Such textual analysis is used to place the actors on an underlying ideological dimension, which allows to analyse the changing distances between them. In this way, the topic of this seminar continues our theme of polarization, which we have addressed in our previous meetings.

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Please find the abstracts of the papers below. 
FIRST: Has the Tea Party Era Radicalized the GOP? Text analysis of the 2008 and 2012 Republican primary debates.
Much ink has been spilled describing the emergence and likely influence of the Tea Party on the American political landscape. Pundits and journalists alike have declared that the crystallization of the Tea Party in the past few years has pushed the Republican party to a more extreme ideological position. To test this hypothesis we analyze the ideological positions taken by candidates in the pre-Iowa caucus Republican primary presidential debates – we chose this period because the candidates had yet to alter their original positions as a result of electoral jockeying in the primary contest. To establish the ideological positions of candidates we extract word frequencies from the transcriptions of televised primary debates and use a text-analytic technique that places the candidates on a single dimension using the frequencies. This factor-analytic dimension is used to quantify the position of the candidates for the 2008 and 2012 US presidential election cycle. The results show that the Republican candidates in 2012 moved towards a generalized Tea Party ideology and against the traditional Republican ideology, which was more salient in the 2008 debates.
SECOND: Testing the Party Polarization Thesis: A Text Analysis of Major Party Platforms and Outflanking Parties, 1992 to 2012
Scholars of U.S. party politics have observed that, over the past couple decades at least, the two major parties appear to have moved apart from one another ideologically in terms of the ideal policy positions. This phenomenon has enormous consequences in terms of policy outcomes, as politicians from the two parties find it increasingly difficult to find common ground – generating legislative gridlock and increasing the costs of side payments necessary to induce members of the other party to vote for one’s bills. It also has consequences for democratic procedures themselves, as it makes it more likely that the party out of power will use extra-parliamentary maneuvers to block the legislative agenda of the party in power, while the party in power uses non-democratic techniques to push their own policy agenda through. There are also debates over whether this process is symmetrical, and what are its sources. To address these questions, we use a text analytical technique that extracts a single ideological dimension underlying the platforms of the major parties, Democrats and Republicans, as well as the primary outflanking movements from 1992 to 2012, showing that, as some argue, the Republican Party has moved further to the right than the Democrats have moved to the left. Further, it appears that the GOP has responded to a much greater degree to the challengers on the right (most recently, the Tea Party) than the Democrats have to challenges on the left (such as the Green Party). What this may suggest is that the ideological ground of Republicans is far less stable and more vulnerable to outflanking challenges than is the ideological ground of the Democrats.

Please find the abstracts of the papers below. 

FIRST: Has the Tea Party Era Radicalized the GOP? Text analysis of the 2008 and 2012 Republican primary debates.

Much ink has been spilled describing the emergence and likely influence of the Tea Party on the American political landscape. Pundits and journalists alike have declared that the crystallization of the Tea Party in the past few years has pushed the Republican party to a more extreme ideological position. To test this hypothesis we analyze the ideological positions taken by candidates in the pre-Iowa caucus Republican primary presidential debates – we chose this period because the candidates had yet to alter their original positions as a result of electoral jockeying in the primary contest. To establish the ideological positions of candidates we extract word frequencies from the transcriptions of televised primary debates and use a text-analytic technique that places the candidates on a single dimension using the frequencies. This factor-analytic dimension is used to quantify the position of the candidates for the 2008 and 2012 US presidential election cycle. The results show that the Republican candidates in 2012 moved towards a generalized Tea Party ideology and against the traditional Republican ideology, which was more salient in the 2008 debates.

SECOND: Testing the Party Polarization Thesis: A Text Analysis of Major Party Platforms and Outflanking Parties, 1992 to 2012

Scholars of U.S. party politics have observed that, over the past couple decades at least, the two major parties appear to have moved apart from one another ideologically in terms of the ideal policy positions. This phenomenon has enormous consequences in terms of policy outcomes, as politicians from the two parties find it increasingly difficult to find common ground – generating legislative gridlock and increasing the costs of side payments necessary to induce members of the other party to vote for one’s bills. It also has consequences for democratic procedures themselves, as it makes it more likely that the party out of power will use extra-parliamentary maneuvers to block the legislative agenda of the party in power, while the party in power uses non-democratic techniques to push their own policy agenda through. There are also debates over whether this process is symmetrical, and what are its sources. To address these questions, we use a text analytical technique that extracts a single ideological dimension underlying the platforms of the major parties, Democrats and Republicans, as well as the primary outflanking movements from 1992 to 2012, showing that, as some argue, the Republican Party has moved further to the right than the Democrats have moved to the left. Further, it appears that the GOP has responded to a much greater degree to the challengers on the right (most recently, the Tea Party) than the Democrats have to challenges on the left (such as the Green Party). What this may suggest is that the ideological ground of Republicans is far less stable and more vulnerable to outflanking challenges than is the ideological ground of the Democrats.