Christopher Hare (shared Fellowship w/Hosek)

2017 Hellman Fellow

Assistant Professor, Economics
UC Davis

Project Title: Bridging the pond: measuring policy preferences in western democracies

The events of 2016 have raised both old and new questions about the nature and role of right-wing populism in democratic systems. As political scientists, Hare & Hosek wish to understand the relationship between the forces that led to “Brexit” in the U.K., the election of Donald Trump in the U.S., and the success of right-wing populist parties across Europe. What are the similarities (and dissimilarities) between the electoral coalitions motivating these developments across different national and cultural contexts?

Answering these kinds of questions requires reliable and valid measures of the policy positions of political actors (i.e., voters, parties, and candidates), but surprisingly little work has been done to produce comparable estimates of policy positions between the US and other Western democracies, including Europe. In this project, the team proposes the use of a multi-method survey approach to conduct such a bridging “across the pond.”

The main component of this proposal is to field public opinion surveys in the US and UK. As a technical matter, once Hare & Hosek are able to place American and British political actors (voters, parties, etc.) in a common policy space, Hare & Hosek can easily extend this analysis to include other European countries since multi-country European surveys are already available. Hare & Hosek will design the survey, asked of both US and UK respondents, to include questions that vary in two ways. First, the questions will touch on both broad political value questions (general role and size of government, economic egalitarianism, moral traditionalism, authoritarianism, etc.) and more specific, technical issue questions (preferred immigration policies, the importance of specific issues, positions on social issues like abortion and LGBT rights, etc.). Second, the survey will include both general and country-specific questions (for example, questions about preferred levels of taxation will be posed in both general terms and reference existing US/UK policies). In both cases, the more general questions will help to provide leverage in in connecting between different cultural contexts, while the more specific questions will provide finely-grained estimates of ideological positions.

In addition to these surveys of voters, this research program will also integrate the use of expert surveys to bridge policy estimates across different political systems. Expert surveys ask scholars to place parties and candidates in their country of expertise on ideological scales. In addition, surveys of candidates, elected officials, and party leaders can provide added insight into elites’ preferences over the policy space. Combining these three types of surveys—voter, expert, and elite—will allow to us how political elites and the mass electorate differ in terms of issue extremity, ideological structure, and policy priorities.