Franz Urban Pappi, Nicole Seher
Party Election Programmes, Signalling Policies and Salience of Specific Policy Domains: The German Parties from 1990 to 2005

German Politics, 2009: 18, issue 3, pp. 403-425

Parliaments and governments function as problem-solving institutions for specific policy domains. Due to the division of labour in governments, parties are interested in the stated policy priorities and the domain-specific positions of their possible coalition partners. This article investigates the coalition-relevant content of German election manifestos. Our goal is to identify policy domain-specific party positions and saliencies; we are less interested in the positions of parties on broadly defined ideological scales. Therefore, we present a new method of coding election manifestos. We partition manifestos into text corpora belonging to different policy domains by hand coding the titles the parties themselves have chosen for these sections. Section length is used as our measure of domain salience. We then estimate policy positions for these domains with the computerised content analysis algorithm WORDFISH. In this manner we estimate positions and saliencies of the German federal parties from 1990–2005. To validate our method, we compare our results with those of Slapin and Proksch and with results based on the CMP data.