Path: Janda: Political Parties, Home Page > Part 1: Table of Contents > Chapter 5
Kenneth Janda, Political Parties: A Cross-National Survey (New York: The Free Press, 1980)
Chapter 6: Issue Orientation (pp. 53-77), this is p. 53
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(Text below as published in 1980 citation above)

MUCH OF PARTY POLITICS centers around political issues, and a comparative analysis of party politics must determine the parties' positions on issues with cross-national significance. This is far easier said than done, for there are at least five difficult conceptual problems that complicate the comparative study of issue orientation. These problems deal with (1) selecting issues for analysis, (2) formulating a consistent framework for handling pro-con positions on issues, (3) deciding between an "absolutist" or "relativist" basis for scoring positions on issues, (4) distinguishing between issue consensus and issue irrelevancy, and (5) handling discrepancies between party program and party practice. Each of these problems will be discussed in turn before discussing the conceptual basis and presenting the operational definitions prepared for the basic variables in this variable cluster.

1. Selecting issues for analysis. We begin by conceiving of a hypothetical universe of all issues confronting political parties during our time period, 1950-1962. Limiting our attention to issues during this time period in itself imposes constraints on comparative analysis, for another time period might well produce a different universe of issues. We further narrow the universe by also requiring that the issues be pervasive enough to elicit conflicting positions by parties in more than two countries--insisting, in fact, that the issues must either cut across countries in different cultural-geographical areas or that they be common to most of the party systems within a single area. Even thus delimited, the universe of issues is ill defined and probably still far larger than the set of thirteen that we identified for inclusion in the analysis. The issues that we selected constitute a "sample" of the universe only to the extent that we have not included all the issues that might be included in a cross-national analysis. We hope that we have selected the important ones, but we certainly have not exhausted the universe of possibilities.

2. Formulating a consistent pro-con scoring framework. Issue-oriented politics are commonly discussed in terms of pro and con positions; one party is for a certain government policy and another is against it. This kind of dualism lends itself to scoring parties either positively or negatively on the policy or issue and expressing the magnitude of their support or opposition in terms of the value accompanying the sign. Such a scoring system facilitates analysis by incorporating into the data the pro-con distinctions of conventional political discourse. Without question, the most common yardstick for evaluating parties during our period was the "left-right" distinction, which permeated the party politics literature. For example, the World Survey of Communist Party Strength, prepared and published annually by the U.S. State Department Intelligence and Research Bureau, rates parties in each country along a left-right continuum (actually the extreme categories are "communist" and "conservative") providing us with a convenient "macro" evaluation of party ideology by country experts.

An important task for the comparative analysis of political parties is to investigate the universality and unidimensionality of such presumed continuums. To help this analysis, we attach left-right interpretations to the parties' positions on the issues at the time of scoring, adopting the convention that a positive score is associated with a "leftist" position. Clearly, attributing left- right positions to parties is easier on some issues than it is on others, but, despite the imperfect fit for certain issues, the decision of which side should be treated as "left" and which side as "right" proved to be workable in coding. The extent of the appropriateness of this procedure, and the extent of the unidimensionality of the distinction, will emerge from subsequent analysis of the data.

3. Deciding between "relative" and "absolute" scoring. It is possible that a "leftist" position on an issue in one country might constitute a "rightist" position in another country, which indicates that "left" and "right" can be regarded in relative terms, depending on national party politics. While such a relativistic approach to scoring parties on issue orientation may be faithful to politics within countries, it frustrates crossnational analysis of party orientations due to the lack of a common referent across countries. Therefore, we have opted for an "absolutist" approach to scoring issue orientation, which involves formulating common scales for

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