Martin Gross, Michael Jankowski
Analyzing Local Party Manifestos in Multi-Level Democracies

7th Annual General Conference of the European Political Science Association, Mailand, 22. bis 24. Juni 2017

Extracting party positions from election manifestos is a well-established procedure in comparative political science research. The potential of analyzing local party manifestos, however, is yet to be explored. In this article, we argue that local party manifestos offer a fruitful source for research but impose certain methodological challenges. We discuss these challenges and address three research questions. First, can local party manifestos be used to extract meaningful party positions? Second, how does the choice of different methods for text-scaling affect the results? Third, how can these estimates be used in political research? By analyzing more than 400 local party manifestos at the local level in Germany, the answer to the first question is clearly yes. We find, however, substantive differences in the results produced by supervised and unsupervised methods. Finally, we outline how these estimates can be used to explain local party competition.