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The Political Methodologist

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The Political MethodologistNewsletter of the Political Methodology SectionAmerican Political Science AssociationVolume 14, Number 2, Fall 2006Editors:Adam J. Berinsky, Massachusetts Institute of [email protected] C. Herron, Dar tmouth [email protected] B. Lewis, University of California Los [email protected] Assistant:Seth J. Hill, University of California Los [email protected] from the Editors 1Articles 2David Firth and Arthur Spirling: tapiR and ThePublic Whip: Resources for WestminsterVoting...................... 2Computing and Software 5David K.Park, Andrew Gelman, and Noah Ka-plan: R2WinBUGS: Running WinBUGS from R .5Simon Jackman: Data from the Web into R .... 11Book Reviews 16Ryan T. Moore: Review of Essential Mathematicsfor Political and Social Research,byJeffGill 16Section Activities 18AnotefromourSectionPresident ......... 18NotesFromtheEditorsWelcome to the latest issue of The Political Methodologist,and the last under our editorial regime. Beginning with thenext issue, TPM will be in the capable hands of Paul Kell-stedt, Dave Peterson, and Guy Whitten at Texas A&M. Wehope that you have enjoyed the issues we have producedover the last three years and we look forward to joining allof you as consumers, rather than producers of TPM.This issue begins with an article by David Firth andArthur Spirling on resources that make it possible to ana-lyze voting data from the House of Commons at Westmin-ster. We then move a pair of articles in our Computingand Software section. The first, by David Park, AndrewGelman, and Noah Kaplan discusses how to run WINBUGSthrough R. The second, by Simon Jackman draws attentionto R’s data processing capabilities by outlining proceduresfor importing data from web pages into R.RyanMoorethenreviews another title in the Analytical Methods for SocialResearch series, published by Cambridge University Press,Essential Mathematics for Political and Social Research, byJeff Gill. We close the issue with notes from our sectionpresident, Janet Box-Steffensmeier and a message from thenew TPM editorial team.The Editors2 The Political Methodologist, vol. 14, no. 2ArticlestapiR and The Public Whip: Resources for Westminster VotingDavid Firth and Arthur SpirlingUniversity of Warwick and University of Rochesterd.fi[email protected] and [email protected] no doubt most readers of TPM are aware, thespatial analysis of legislatures has become a mainstay ofour discipline. With some important exceptions, almost allthis work has been based on Congressional roll call vot-ing in the United States. This is unfortunate but under-standable: unfortunate because there are other parliamentsin the world with potentially very interesting patterns tobe uncovered, but understandable because (a) data has notbeen easily available in electronic or machine readable for-mat for non-US parliaments and (b) the most technicallyminded scholars in political science have historically beenAmericanists. Here we intend to draw interested readers’attentions to a set of new resources, partly contributed bythe current authors, that ameliorate the data availabilityproblem for the United Kingdom (from 1992 onwards) andhence allow analysis of the House of Commons at Westmin-ster. This is probably not the place to wax lyrical aboutthe joys of studying Britain’s House of Commons, suffice tonote that it is literally is the Westminster system that read-ers may (hopefully!) recall from introductory Comparativepolitics classes, and contrasts with the US Congress insofaras it shows highly cohesive parties and a ‘fused’ legislatureand executive (Cabinet).tapiR and error corrected votesParliamentary voting in the United Kingdom isrecorded in both hard and electronic copy in the volumesof the official Hansard record. Unfortunately, the pagesof Hansard provide only individual division lists in textualform and even the online Hansard webpages—available forall House of Commons debates and votes since 1995—cannotbe used directly for analysis, as they contain inconsistenciesin the names used for Members of Parliament (MPs), extra-neous markup codes etc.The current authors provide two resources: data onHouse of Commons voting for the period 1992 to 2005; andsoftware tools to enable future House of Commons divi-sions to be added easily by accessing the relevant pages ofHansard online and incorporating the votes of each MP intoa single rectangular dataset. As we explain in the next sec-tion, the software has become somewhat redundant since,in recent times, others have taken up the mantle of col-lating and recording votes in essentially the same way, sowe only briefly discuss our package here. It was designedfor the R statistical computing environment and is namedtapiR which stands for tools for accessing parliamentaryinformation in R.1Three separate datasets are provided for the 1992–1997 parliament, the 1997–2001 parliament and the 2001–2005 parliament. The data are in spreadsheet format, withrows representing MPs and the columns representing divi-sions. The first column after each name represents the MP’spolitical party; in the few cases where the MP’s affiliationchanges during the period party membership at the end ofthe parliament is recorded.Table 1 illustrates the format of the data. ShowninTable1arevotesforthefirsttenMPsalphabetically,in the first three divisions of the session which began afterthe May 1997 General Election. Divisions are identified bythe Division Number as reported in Hansard, and the dateon which the division took place. Votes are either ‘y’or‘n’, signifying respectively Ayes and Noes as recorded in theHansard division lists (including the Tellers for each side).A dash means that the MP did not vote, i.e., was in nei-ther the Ayes nor the Noes. Note that it is not possible todistinguish between different types of non-voting, the threemost important such being absence from the House, delib-erate abstention when present, and ‘pairing’ in which MPson opposite sides of an issue agree that neither need vote astheir votes would cancel (although this disappeared as anarrangement after 1997). Occasionally, Hansard records anMP in both the Ayes and Noes lists for a division, and insuchinstanceswehaveusedthecode‘b’ (for ‘both’); thiscan happen either because the MP went through both theAye and the No lobbies, for example because of a change ofmind or the realization


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