New data source for political science researchers

Political Data Yearbook Interactive is a new source for data on election results, turnout and government composition for all EU and some non-European countries. It is basically an online version of the yearbooks that ECPR printed as part of the European Journal for Political Research for many years now.

The interactive online tool has some (limited) visualization options and can export data in several formats.

The most successful party family in Europe?!

The populist radical right constitutes the most successful party family in postwar Western Europe.” (Cas Mudde, Stein Rokkan Lecture published in the latest issue of the European Journal of Political Research)

I hope this is a typo or some other type of unintentional misunderstanding. How can the populist radical right be the most successful party family when they have never gotten more than 16% of the votes outside Austria and Switzerland (according to Table 1 in the same lecture)?

 

Mudde, C. A. S. “Three Decades of Populist Radical Right Parties in Western Europe: So What?” European Journal of Political Research 52, no. 1 (2013): 1-19.
Abstract
The populist radical right constitutes the most successful party family in postwar Western Europe. Many accounts in both academia and the media warn of the growing influence of populist radical right parties (PRRPs), the so-called ‘verrechtsing’ (or right turn) of European politics, but few provide empirical evidence of it. This lecture provides a first comprehensive analysis of the alleged effects of the populist radical right on the people, parties, policies and polities of Western Europe. The conclusions are sobering. The effects are largely limited to the broader immigration issue, and even here PRRPs should be seen as catalysts rather than initiators, who are neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for the introduction of stricter immigration policies. The lecture ends by providing various explanations for the limited impact of PRRPs, but it is also argued that populist parties are not destined for success in opposition and failure in government. In fact, there are at least three reasons why PRRPs might increase their impact in the near future: the tabloidisation of political discourse; the aftermath of the economic crisis; and the learning curve of PRRPs. Even in the unlikely event that PRRPs will become major players in West European politics, it is unlikely that this will lead to a fundamental transformation of the political system. PRRPs are not a normal pathology of European democracy, unrelated to its basic values, but a pathological normalcy, which strives for the radicalisation of mainstream values.

Hedging the bets: The US election outcome in the Dutch press

This is a guest post by Markus Haverland, Professor at Erasmus University Rotterdam and author of a recent book on research methods.
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Causal knowledge about the world proceeds by testing hypotheses. The context of discovery precedes the context of justification. We all know that journalists and pundits often do it the other way around: providing for an explanation after the fact.

A particularly hilarious example can be found in today’s issue of “Spits”, a Dutch daily newspaper. Anticipating that the result of the elections for the president of the US would arrive after the newspapers went to press, the newspaper prepared for both situations. It has turned the backpage into a second frontpage. Depending on the results the reader is advised to either read the frontpage or the backpage. On both pages the well-known  Dutch journalists, a former correspondent in Washington, Charles Groenhuijsen analyses the results. On the “Obama wins” page he explains that it was evident that Obama would win, because he is a better campaigner and Romney’s economic program is inconsistent. On the “Romney  wins”  page he explains this outcome, by stating that, ultimately, the US is a conservative country, that voters were afraid of a turn to the left, laws against gun possession, and tolerance towards gay marriage, and that voters thought he was not effectively dealing with the economic crisis.

No use for big data in electioneering, according to Hollywood

Over the last year two major Hollywood movies that touch upon the use of big data and sophisticated data analysis hit the big screen. Which, of course, is two more than the mean (or was that the median). Moneyball shows how crunching numbers helps win baseball games and Margin Call shows how crunching numbers helps ruin financial firms. It’s kind of fun to see Brad Pitt and Kevin Spacey stare at spreadsheets and nod approvingly while being explained some statistical subtleties. But watching someone stare at somebody else’s spreadsheets quickly becomes tiresome … which probably explains why Regressing with the Stars, Dotchart Master, and America’s Next Multilevel Model haven’t yet taken over reality TV.

So I was really disappointed to see that a third 2011 movie – The Ides of March – misses a golden opportunity to show the use of big data and sophisticated analysis for winning elections. The movie revolves around the primary presidential campaign of George Clooney (pardon, Governor Mike Morris) and the dirty politics behind the scenes. But for Hollywood in 2011, electioneering is still a game of horse-trading, media spinning and good-ol’ stabs in the back. All these things about election campaigns are probably true, but I was disappointed that there were no fancy graphs plotting approval ratings and prediction market quotes, no real-time election forecasts (or nowcasts) at which  George Clooney to stare and nod approvingly, no GIS-supported campaign targeting, not even focus groups, twits, facebook pages, not to speak of google circles. Now, I have never been involved  in an election campaign but I would have guessed that some of what political scientists are doing to analyze election outcomes and the effects of various elements of election campaigns has filtered through to campaign managers. But according to The Ides of March, electioneering is still stuck in the 1990-s. Someone get Hollywood a subscription to Political Analysis.

In fact, the only difference between The Ides of March and The War Room – the 1993 documentary about Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign – is that the actors in The Ides of March wear less hideous suits. And the intern is blond (just joking). Now when I think about it, the documentary The War Room actually packs more drama and suspense than the scripted The Ides of March. Which in fact is true about the documentary Inside Job vis-a-vis Margin Call as well.

P.S. My recent movie ratings can be found here.