The Ties That Bind: Text Similarities and Conditional Diffusion among Parties

Abstract: Comparative analyses of party policy diffusion are only just emerging. To better understand the conditions under which diffusion occurs, this article argues that three heuristics – availability, representativeness and anchoring – shape parties’ efforts to gather information (from elsewhere), leading to differing diffusion effects. The study operationalizes the outcome as textual similarity of party manifestos in nineteen Western democracies from 1960 to 2016, applying a text-as-data approach and machine translation. Analyzing dyads, it assesses how commonalities and sender/receiver attributes impact diffusion. It finds that there is little room for cross-border diffusion as successful parties stick to their old program. Beyond the still-prevailing domestic context, ‘learning from cultural reference groups’ in a region is most important. In addition, diffusion appears within EP factions and transnational party organizations independently of the success/loss of the sender. The analysis thus sheds light on (un-)favorable conditions for party policy diffusion and paves the way for future studies applying machine translation and quantitative text analyses.