Computational Analysis of Political Texts: Bridging Research Efforts Across Communities

In the last twenty years, political scientists started adopting and developing natural language processing (NLP) methods more actively in order to exploit text as an additional source of data in their analyses. Over the last decade the usage of computational methods for analysis of political texts has drastically expanded in scope, allowing for a sustained growth of the text-as-data community in political science. In political science, NLP methods have been extensively used for a number of analyses types and tasks, including inferring policy position of actors from textual evidence, detecting topics in political texts, and analyzing stylistic aspects of political texts (e.g., assessing the role of language ambiguity in framing the political agenda). Just like in numerous other domains, much of the work on computational analysis of political texts has been enabled and facilitated by the development of resources such as, the topically coded electoral programmes (e.g., the Manifesto Corpus) or topically coded legislative texts (e.g., the Comparative Agenda Project). Political scientists created resources and used available NLP methods to process textual data largely in isolation from the NLP community. At the same time, NLP researchers addressed closely related tasks such as election prediction, ideology classification, and stance detection. In other words, these two communities have been largely agnostic of one another, with NLP researchers mostly unaware of interesting applications in political science and political scientists not applying cutting-edge NLP methodology to their problems. The main goal of this tutorial is to systematize and analyze the body of research work on political texts from both communities. We aim to provide a gentle, all-round introduction to methods and tasks related to computational analysis of political texts. Our vision is to bring the two research communities closer to each other and contribute to faster and more significant developments in this interdisciplinary research area.

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