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Jonathan Wheatley, Christopher Carman, Fernando Mendez, and James Mitchell, "The dimensionality of the Scottish political space: Results from an experiment on the 2011 Holyrood elections," Party Politics, 20 (November, 2014), 864-878. [Available at http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/vol20/issue6/ ]

First paragraph:
During the past decade, Voting Advice Applications (VAAs) have been employed in a number of diverse national settings, especially in Europe, but also, increasingly, outside the continent. Ostensibly, the aim of the VAA is to help voters decide which party or candidate most closely matches their policy preferences. Its primary logic is therefore that of an application to benefit the voter, rather than a survey tool. However, given the large datasets it can generate, the VAA also has great potential as a device that could be used in research on the political orientation of citizens. It is this potential that our article intends to exploit. Specifically, the focus is on how Voting Advice Applications (VAAs) can be used to extend our understanding of underlying policy dimensions in a polity and the relative positioning of supporters of political parties.

Table 1. Holyrood election results with breakdown of Scottish vote compass sample.
Table 2. The policy space: Scotland (all valid users).
Table 3. Mokken scales with scalability coefficients (Hi).
Figure 1. Positions of ideological party supporters in policy space (means).
Table 4. Means and standard deviation of positions of ideological party supporters.
Table 5. The policy space: Scotland (sample weighted by party support).
Table 6. Mean scores and standard deviations on six common questions.
Figure 2. Positions of parties (coded by experts) and ideological party supporters..

Last Paragraph:
The main benefit of VAA-generated data over conventional survey data is that they can potentially provide far more insights into the construction of policy spaces because, as a rule, they include far more questions on policy positions. It is rarely practical to include 30 policy statements in a face-to-face survey and user responses to a small number of policy statements are less amenable to the sort of dimension reduction techniques described in this article. Overall, we can conclude that the method outlined here provides a useful addition to the repertoire of methods that have been used so far in the mapping of political parties. We can expect that the VAA will be developed as a tool for party mapping much further in the future.

Last updated November 2014