Politics : A Local Municipal Council Meeting Up At The United Nations Security Council

Politics : A Local Municipal Council Meeting Up At The United Nations Security Council

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Politics takes place in committees (Black, 1958). On every level of politics starting from a local municipal council meeting up to the United Nations Security Council, com- mittees, that is groups of representatives, make rules and judge about their compliance. While many of these committees make decisions by some form of voting, the absence of a complete voting record is an unfortunate, common feature for many of them. A large majority of domestic and international institutions such as courts, central banks or intergovernmental organizations do not publish voting records of their committees consistently. Even plenary voting records from legislatures are rarely published. Ac- cording to a survey by Hug (2010) only 20 out of 114 legislatures worldwide record and publish plenary voting records.
While the reasons for the absence of a voting record are plentiful, the consequences for empirical research are the same: Inference about how observables are related to committee members’ vote choices is challenging. In search for means to make inference, some have turned to committees’ decision records. A decision record can generally be defined as a list detailing the decisions of a committee as a whole. In its most elementary form it is a list of which decisions have been adopted or rejected but it might also come with more information such as the margin of victory for the majority. If this decision record is available, it can be correlated with observables which often requires to summarize the member-specific variation of the observables with a statistic. In essence, the idea is to use decisions of the committee to learn about how observables are related to members’ vote choices.
As an example consider the United Nations Security Council ...


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...s are related to members’ vote choices or intends to make comparisons across institutional contexts, the structural model is a more suitable way of analyze decision record data.

I illustrate the application of the structural model with data from two distinct institutions: the U.S. State Supreme Courts and the U.N. Security Council. Using U.S. State Supreme Court abortion decisions collected by Caldarone et al. (2009), I illustrate how including a random subset of observed votes, mitigates the costs of aggregation. I also return to the example of the U.N. Security Council, re-analyzing data by Hultman (2013) on the correlation between civilians killed and the deployment of U.N. peace operations. I show that the effect on the vote choice probability with respect to changes in one-sided violence is quite substantial while the effect on the adoption probability is small.

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