This article examines how national parties and their members position themselves in European Parliament (EP) debates, estimating the principal latent dimension of spoken conflict using word counts from legislative speeches. We then examine whether the estimated ideal points reflect partisan conflict on a left–right, European integration or national politics dimension. Using independent measures of national party positions on these three dimensions, we find that the corpus of EP speeches reflects partisan divisions over EU integration and national divisions rather than left–right politics. These results are robust to both the choice of language used to scale the speeches and to a range of statistical models that account for measurement error of the independent variables and the hierarchical structure of the data.
(Online publication December 08 2009)
* Mannheim Centre for European Social Research, University of Mannheim; and Trinity College Dublin, respectively (email: firstname.lastname@example.org). The authors thank Ken Benoit, James Honaker, Thomas König, Jeff Lewis, Michael Peress, George Tsebelis, Albert Weale and several anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions. A previous version of this article was presented at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association in Chicago and at the Workshop on Estimating Policy Preferences at the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research in 2008. Both authors have contributed equally to all work.