Joana, from the Gulbenkian Institute of Science, presented her work on the computational analysis of discourse in the Portuguese parliament. Here’s the abstract:
“Individual decisions can have a large impact on society as a whole. This is obvious for political decisions, but still true for small, daily decisions made by common citizens. Individuals decide how to vote and whether or not to stay at home when they feel sick. In isolation, these individual decisions have a negligible social outcome, but collectively they determine the results of an election and the start of an epidemic. New data sources and data analysis tools have made it possible to study the behaviour of large numbers of individuals, enabling the rise of large-scale quantitative social research.
At the Science and Policy (S&P) group we are interested in understanding these decision-making events, particularly the behaviours that affect health and disease. We have been focusing on two types of problems. The first is related with what we usually identify as political debate and deliberation. The second is disease dynamics. Both cases depend strongly on both the behaviours of individuals (in bottom-up collective processes), and of decision-makers (the top-down decisions).
During the seminar I will try to bring them together and argue that specific political (and economic?) moods can work as triggers for epidemics. I will offer some background on our work on understanding disease dynamics and then focus on the computational analysis of the last 40 years of debates at the Portuguese Parliament, particularly during economic crisis settings.
I will describe some of the tools that we have been developing, or refining, to automatically identify and extract discourse and voting patterns, and to analyse the individual votes and plenary discourses of all members of the PP from 1976 to 2016. We are now beginning to compare individual discourses with each other and with those of each represented political party. In particular, we have been focusing on the IMF interventions to understand how networks and discourse changed during “times of austerity”. The hypothesis is that these strongly affect public health and disease dynamics and we are comparing the political discourse data with other datasets.
More generally, we expect this corpus and tools to offer insight on how the dynamics have changed in 40 years of democracy and approach questions such as whether the public debate has become more or less polarized, whether the representatives are becoming more or less homogeneous, in terms of stated positions and votes, or how have the arguments (broadly) changed with time. Therefore, and given the wide scope of questions that could gain from such resources, we are preparing a website to make all of our data (including debates and databases) freely and easily available to researchers, journalists and interested citizens.”
Alice presented a paper focusing on two attitudinal domains of public policies related to immigration: how many can come and who can come. Here’s the abstract:
Based on ESS-7 data and drawing on theories about the bi-dimensionality of racism, racist-based discrimination against immigrants and the legitimation of the relationship between racist beliefs and discriminatory intentions, this paper focuses on two attitudinal domains of public policies related to immigration: how many can come and who can come. In this context, the hypothesis concerning the bi-dimensionality of racism was supported and, as predicted, biological racism is more anti-normative than cultural racism. Both biological and cultural racism predict opposition to immigration and adhesion to ethnicist criteria on the selection of immigrants. As hypothesised, the relationship between racism and opposition to immigration and adhesion to ethnicist criteria is mediated by threat perceptions. Specifically, symbolic and realistic threats mediate the effect of biological and cultural racism on opposition to immigration and on ethnicist criteria. The hypothesis that the mediation effects are moderated by the country’s quality of democracy was supported, indicating that the mediation effects are stronger in countries with a higher quality of democracy. Results are discussed within the context of theories of racism as a bi-dimensional concept and in the framework of the role of legitimation processes on social discrimination.
Pedro presented his and Joaquín’s paper on how first election experiences have a lasting impact on people’s attitudes. Here’s the first paragraph:
“Why do European governing parties lose progressively electoral ground until they are forced to leave office? How can we explain the constant switch from left-wing to right- wing governments in established democracies over time? What is the relationship between the emergence of catch-all parties and the development of extremist ideologies among the electorate in recent decades in Western Europe? Although most current explanations of these three phenomena draw on different theories, this paper advances a novel argument that aims to provide an encompassing account of all of them by focusing on the powerful role played by individuals ́ first elections. According to previous research, elections have an impact on political attitudes by fortifying prior partisan affiliations and increasing levels of voters’ political interest. This impact is particularly strong when people are not old enough to have become anchored to particular voting patterns. Within this framework, early electoral choices in life can leave a long-term imprint on people’s voting trajectories.”
To start out our 2017-2018 series of seminars, Pedro presented a paper on how the relationship between socioeconomic status and support for liberal democracy is modified by regime type.
Ian presented his paper. Here’s the abstract:
“In the aftermath of the global economic crisis, the challenges facing welfare states are unprecedented. While government leaders have been in broad agreement that the severity of the recession called for decisive actions to limit the costs of the crisis, national responses have differed significantly. This article seeks to explain these divergent patterns and answer the critical question: how has the crisis affected the politics of social spending across liberal welfare states? This research tests the effects of political parties on social spending across nine liberal welfare states during the pre-crisis (1990-2007) and post-crisis (2008-2013) periods. It also provides in-depth analysis of the United States and the United Kingdom, two representative liberal welfare states who adopted highly dissimilar post-crisis social spending. The findings demonstrate that while political parties were not correlated with social spending during the pre-crisis period, after the global economic crisis they were significant in influencing social spending. This indicates an important shift in political dynamics across liberal welfare states over time that has not been accounted for by the existing literature.”
Jorge presented this paper. Here’s the abstract:
“Legislative debate serves a number of crucial purposes for parties in parliamentary systems; debates are used to cultivate the party’s reputation, challenge its rivals, engage in coalition management, amongst many other tasks. However, it is not often noted that that doing this effectively tends to require detailed knowledge of particular policies that is costly to acquire. We extend the ‘informational’ perspective on committees to parliamentary systems to suggest that parties resolve this problem using committees. We contend that they assign members to committees to encourage them to acquire specific expertise that is then used in parliamentary debates to benefit the party as a whole. We further suggest that tensions between coalition partners increases the need to rely on experts. To test our theory, we rely on a novel method for assessing the context of legislative speech; we rely on a supervised learning method to map speeches onto committee jurisdictions using the text of bills as the training data. We apply this procedure to the Portuguese Parliament from 2000 to 2015, leveraging variation in the political environment as well as institutional features that lead to the parties being the predominant actors in political life.”
Andrea is making a presentation on data visualisation. Here’s the abstract:
Why let them read your data if they can see them? Visualising data is a powerful strategy for creating reports and conveying clear messages to readers, but traditional social sciences training does not cover data visualisation. This workshop will introduce participants to the use of graphs to report and show description, variation and correlations of data. We will use graphical representation of effects, simulations and quantities of interests in order to report statistical results in a more straightforward way. As well as covering the basics of how to draw an effective figure or graph, we will also work on drawing maps and combining graphs. We will use R and Stata as software. At the end of the workshop participants will have a wide choice of graphs for use in their future research.