How Populist are Parties? Measuring Degrees of Populism in Party Manifestos Using Supervised Machine Learning

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Abstract

One of the main challenges in comparative studies on populism concerns its temporal and spatial measurements within and between a large number of parties and countries. Textual analysis has proved useful for these purposes, and automated methods can further improve research in this direction. Here, we propose a method to derive a score of parties’ levels of populism using supervised machine learning to perform textual analysis on national manifestos. We illustrate the advantages of our approach, which allows for measuring populism for a vast number of parties and countries without resource-intensive human-coding processes and provides accurate, updated information for temporal and spatial comparisons of populism. Furthermore, our method allows for obtaining a continuous score of populism, which ensures more fine-grained analyses of the party landscape while reducing the risk of arbitrary classifications. To illustrate the potential contribution of this score, we use it as a proxy for parties’ levels of populism, analyzing average trends in six European countries from the early 2000s for nearly two decades.

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License CC BY
DOI https://doi.org/10.1017/pan.2021.29
Type Journal Articles
C-ID POLS 160 - Methods

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