Recovering a Basic Space from Elite Surveys: Evidence from Latin America



    1. University of California, San Diego
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    • Sebastian M. Saiegh <> is Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of California, San Diego, Social Sciences Building 365, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093.


I used elite survey data and scaling techniques to estimate the location of political actors (parties, chief executives, and legislators) from nine countries in a common ideological space. The recovered ideological configuration of each country accurately reflects the description of that country's political landscape given by the popular press and in the scholarly literature. My findings demonstrate that data generated by survey responses can be reliably used to locate legislators' ideological positions in a low-dimensional space in a manner analogous to the roll-call-based methods commonly used in the scholarship on the U.S. Congress. My approach has two important advantages over methods that use roll-call data, expert surveys, or some combination thereof. First, it does not rely on recorded votes and so is unaffected by concerns about the validity of roll-call data as unbiased indicators of legislator preference. And, because it does not require access to voting records, this approach can be applied to any legislature in the world. Second, my method can be used to estimate the location of political actors in a common ideological space.