Policy Votes Project

Policy Votes is the website of the NWO funded project "Database on Political Responsiveness". The aim of this project is to create a database on the preferences of the European electorates, political parties and governments, past election results, and complete legislative outputs.

The responsiveness of democratic institutions is a topic of fundamental importance to researchers, citizens, and decision-makers. Research is hampered because existing datasets are scattered, unconnected and inconsistent. Our project is in the process of assembling a unified and cross-indexed resource. The database will encompass data on the preferences of the European electorates, political parties and governments, as well as past election results, and complete legislative outputs. All data sources are linked through a homogenized coding scheme, and all data sources will be richly cross-indexed.

The database that we are assembling will facilitate investigation of the responsiveness of political parties and governments to public preferences. Are governments responsive to citizen demands? Do we see policy changing in response to changing public preferences over time? Is a government's responsiveness to public demands more pronounced in some policy areas than in others and at some points in time than others? What is the mediating role of political institutions such as electoral systems, government types (coalition versus single-party) and executive-legislative structures? How does the degree of responsiveness of national governments compare to responsiveness of European institutions? What are the interdependencies of legislative decision-making between the national and the European level? Do national policies influence the development of European level public policies and vice versa? The database we are assemble will facilitate addressing these questions and others.

Objectives of the Project

During the course of the three years of the project we will pursue the following objectives:

  • To unite currently separate sources of data on public opinion, democratic institutions and outcomes into a single comprehensive and cohesive database. This eliminates the redundant effort, reduces the risk of error, and cuts the expense of doing research on political responsiveness. It reconciles differences between existing datasets and opens them to more researchers.
  • To standardize codes for opinion surveys, governments and legislatures in an open format that would become an industry standard for cross-national data analysis. Currently, it can be quite daunting to merge this data, since proprietary and non- intuitive codes are sometimes used. Our dataset will adopt a convention, based on existing standards insofar as they exist.
  • To replace existing static, flat-file datasets with a dynamic, relational database that would contain information in a more efficient, flexible, and precise format. Users will be able to query this database to construct customized datasets according to their needs. Extensive off-line indexing techniques from information retrieval will be used for hyper-linking and cross-indexing the documents in terms of a rich set of dimensions. Replies to queries will be faster and more valuable.
  • To allow complete and open access to the database from the Internet, using a dynamic Web interface that permits interactive queries and construction of customized datasets. This format represents the way of the future for dissemination of data, replacing the static, flat-file data depositories of the twentieth century. The format fits the complex structure of our data.
  • To maintain and update the data in future years. The database would provide a sound foundation that would be easy to maintain and update in future years, with the help of future funding from national and international funding sources. The automated tools built as a part of this project ensure that only relatively modest resources would be needed in order to update the database.