Locating TDs in policy spaces: The computational text analysis of Dáil speeches

Michael Laver, Kenneth Benoit

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This article adapts a new technique for the computerised analysis of political texts, previously used to analyse party manifestos, to the analysis of speeches made in a legislature. The benefits of computerised text analysis come from the ability to analyse, for the first time, complex and daunting electronic sources of text, such as the parliamentary record. This allows the systematic estimation of the policy positions of individual political actors, with huge benefits both for theory development and empirical analysis. In this article, the technique is used to analyse all 58 English language speeches made in the October 1991 confidence debate on the future of the incumbent Fianna Fáil-PD coalition. The task was to use the words spoken in the debate to locate every one of the individual speakers on a 'pro- versus anti-government' dimension. The purpose was, first, to examine the validity of computerised text analysis when applied to legislative speeches and, second, to answer substantively interesting questions about the positions of individual Irish legislators in 1991. The results vindicate the use of computerised analysis in the context of legislative speeches and locate all speakers in the 1991 debate in a substantively interesting policy space.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)59-73
    Number of pages15
    JournalIrish Political Studies
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Jun 2002

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Political Science and International Relations


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