Presidential ideology quantified

Sort of, or at least it definitely tells you polarization. The guys at Voteview use their DW-NOMINATE system to create an estimate of Presidential partisanship.

Our findings here echo those discussed in a prior post that Republicans have moved further to the right than Democrats to the left in the contemporary period. Indeed, as seen below, President Obama is the most moderate Democratic president since the end of World War II, while President George W. Bush was the most conservative president in the post-war era.

I guess I don’t see how the president who signed into law a massive medicare expansion and things like no Child left Behind and spent money like he did is somehow the most conservative president of the past 60 or so years.

Did you even read the links?

I glanced at them - to be honest whatever they’re quanifying, I doubt it’ll trump my confidence in my own inductive/subjective evalutation of the right-left placement of these Presidents. I suspect most of us - perhaps even some conservative posters - would probably agree with the general gist of the graph and the conclusion about the right being righter than the left is left. (Actually, I bet they’d argue about LBJ and Nixon, but at any rate…)

Among Democratic Presidents, seeing Clinton and Carter “left” of LBJ and Truman doesn’t fill me with confidence about the generalized meaningfulness of whatever they’re charting. Perhaps if you put the X-axis on a slope…?

EDIT: I found their other charts a lot more interesting FWIW. The Presidential square wave, less so.

Is there a nice short summary of how the DW-NOMINATE system works, for laymen? The page you’ve linked to seems to presume a lot of foreknowledge which, uh, I don’t have.

Interesting. I don’t like their “fundamental assumptions”, but I guess if you can form models that have predictive power using them then there’s nothing wrong with using them as a heuristic.

I had a similar reaction. I’d guess (hope?) that political nerds hardcore enough to play with that sort of quantified analysis would realize their limitations.

It’s more or less “if you try to group politicians together based on who they vote with, what do you get?” Until the civil rights movement you’d get a left-right split and a south/not split; now you just get a left-right split.

Among Democratic Presidents, seeing Clinton and Carter “left” of LBJ and Truman doesn’t fill me with confidence about the generalized meaningfulness of whatever they’re charting. Perhaps if you put the X-axis on a slope…?

It depends what your center point is. Truman was not particularly liberal given the politics of his day.

How they did it makes sense and is quantitative rather than subjective. Visually, though, my brain would prefer the chart have the “0 line” sloping upwards along whatever (pulled from the air or an arbitrary basket of benchmarks) curve one chose to ascribe to the rightward-moving centre of American politics. Then I’d be fine with the presidents being mapped against 0 and making sense compared to one another.

Truman was not particularly liberal given the politics of his day.

It’s less the distance from the X-axis that bugs me as the fact that the axis isn’t moving over a period where “centre” changed so drastically.

I wouldn’t place the Democratic Presidents that much to the left, but that’s probably my Europeanity shining through.

Seems odd to see Nixon that high up on the “right”. Wasn’t much of Nixon’s policy fairly left leaning, at least by today’s standards?

You had things like establishment of the EPA, Affirmative Action… His “war on drugs” was mainly funding treatment rather than prosecution… he put in price caps on gas… I believe the list goes on, but I’d have to dig more into the details of his policy decisions to recall the details.

I seem to remember him, despite being demonized by the left, actually being a pretty moderate president when you looked at his actual policy decisions.

“0” isn’t a fixed value, that’s relative to “the center’” of DWNOMINATE scoring circa 1969-'74, which was my point about it looking weird visually.

Are you referring to a Nolan chart, i.e. libertarian/populist on the vertical axis, or do you actually mean southern and not-southern voting? If it’s the latter, would you mind linking me to what you’re talking about?

Edit: Nevermind, I think you’re referring to Southern strategy. I’m already behind two empty bottles of double IPA, my processing is slow.

Considering they’re liberals, I’d put them a fair bit to the right, where they belong. The only way those moderate rightwingers can be mistaken for lefties, is because the only other party is so far right they’re barely rightwingers at all.

Apropos, wouldn’t it make more sense to look at the parties as libertarian vs. authoritarian? I mean, the Democratic party is moderately libertarian, while the Republican party is rather extremely authoritarian.

I think you’re referring to Southern strategy.

Well, he could be talking about about the antebellum South, the solid South, the Dixiecrat-and-Republican South…

I don’t think the Nolan chart measures much of anything. I was referring to a pre-Southern strategy result they found where there was a second axis to US politics.

As Poole and Rosenthal explain in Ideology & Congress (the 2nd edition of Congress: A Political-Economic History of Roll Call Voting), the first dimension can be interpreted in most periods as government intervention in the economy or liberal-conservative in the modern era. The 2nd dimension picks up the conflict between North and South on Slavery before the Civil War and from the late 1930s through the mid-1970s, civil rights for African-Americans. After 1980 there is considerable evidence that the South realigns and the 2nd dimension is no longer important. See our discussion of this period in our monograph: Income Redistribution and the Realignment of American Politics (joint with Nolan McCarty, 1997, AEI Press). Further discussion can also be found in Spatial Models of Parliamentary Voting by Keith Poole and in Polarized America (joint with Nolan McCarty).

As to the “appropriate way” to divide them, they’re not trying to measure for that; just see how people cluster together in voting patterns. Personally I think that lines up very well with a economic axis, but your mileage may vary.

Gotcha, and also interesting to note. Politics are complicated here in the South, I like reading some of the history of all of it.