Stephen Jessee: Estimating Ideology

Stephen Jessee’s “(How) Can We Estimate the Ideology of Citizens and Political Elites on the Same Scale?” appeared in the October 2016 issue of American Journal of Political Science.

Abstract: Estimating the ideological positions of political elites on the same scale as those of ordinary citizens has great potential to increase our understanding of voting behavior, representation, and other political phenomena. There has been limited attention, however, to the fundamental issues, both practical and conceptual, involved in conducting these joint scalings, or to the sensitivity of these estimates to modeling assumptions and data choices. I show that the standard strategy of estimating ideal point models using preference data on citizens and elites can suffer from potentially problematic pathologies. This article explores these issues and presents a technique that can be used to investigate the effects of modeling assumptions on resulting estimates and also to impose restrictions on the ideological dimension being estimated in a straightforward way.