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A Bayesian Hierarchical Topic Model for Political Texts: Measuring Expressed Agendas in Senate Press Releases

  • Justin Grimmer (a1)
Abstract

Political scientists lack methods to efficiently measure the priorities political actors emphasize in statements. To address this limitation, I introduce a statistical model that attends to the structure of political rhetoric when measuring expressed priorities: statements are naturally organized by author. The expressed agenda model exploits this structure to simultaneously estimate the topics in the texts, as well as the attention political actors allocate to the estimated topics. I apply the method to a collection of over 24,000 press releases from senators from 2007, which I demonstrate is an ideal medium to measure how senators explain their work in Washington to constituents. A set of examples validates the estimated priorities and demonstrates their usefulness for testing theories of how members of Congress communicate with constituents. The statistical model and its extensions will be made available in a forthcoming free software package for the R computing language.

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e-mail: jgrimmer@fas.harvard.edu (corresponding author)
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Political Analysis
  • ISSN: 1047-1987
  • EISSN: 1476-4989
  • URL: /core/journals/political-analysis
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