Description of the Project
Vote World is a central website which archives, maintains, and distributes datasets of roll-call voting from legislative bodies throughout the international community. The nucleus of the website contains data for the United States House of Representative and Senate (assembled by Keith Poole of Houston and Howard Rosenthal of Princeton), from the European Parliament (assembled by Simon Hix of LSE, Abdul Noury of ULB and Gerard Roland from UC Berkeley), and from the United Nations (assembled by Erik Voeten). The United States data covers the entire history of Congress from 1789 until the present. Vote World is a project of the Institute of Governmental Studies at Berkeley, with the support of the Institute for European Studies.
Researchers from all over the world are able to access this unique website to download data and also to upload their datasets and their papers. Active projects include data on the United Nations General Assembly assembled by Erik Voeten of George Washington University, the Czech and Polish Parliaments assembled by Noury and Roland, and the Latin American Parliaments assembled by John Carey and his collaborators.
The main challenge is to create some "open source" software standards to allow other datasets projects from other legislatures to be available in VoteWorld. Without such standards, maintenance of such a project would be cumbersome. Keith Poole is currently doing a great service to the research community by maintaining his website for the US Congress but given the growth of research, it has become necessary to develop a common platform allowing researchers to upload easily their databases on roll call data. Such a database would make an enormous contribution to the development of scientific knowledge relating to a wide variety of fields in the social sciences.
A benchmark for software is found in the VoteView program, developed with NSF support at Princeton and available as downloadable free shareware at either a voteview.uh.edu. Howard Rosenthal, one of the designers of VoteView, has become a Visiting Scholar at Berkeley. He is actively participating in the development of the software and the Berkeley website.
A partial list of research output of this community, either using Nominate or VoteView is available on this website.
A more ambitious mission has been to improve the VoteWorld interface to where it could be used actively by undergraduates at small colleges and by high school students. This was the basis behind "VoteWorld Online" and the "Animations". (The first version of VoteView is currently used in introductory American politics courses including those taught by Nolan McCarty at Princeton and Cheryl Schonhardt-Bailey at the London School of Economics).
This website will also serve an important archival purpose. After the development of the Nominate scaling method by Poole and Rosenthal in the 1980s, the assembly of large legislative roll call datasets "took off". These datasets have permanent value to the research community. It is important to find a means of institutionalizing their availability in order that access will transcend the research careers of the scholars who have assembled them. This involves not only keeping the existing datasets on the web but in keeping the datasets current. For example, the United States Congress now spans 1789 through 2000. Keeping it current will, at some point, require institutional support.
Comparative data on legislative voting can be widely used not only by political scientists but also by economists, sociologists and historians. It will also allow non-academics - specifically high-school and middle-school students to look at roll call votes the day after (or as soon as they would be posted) they occur. This will have great educational value. In fact, use of VoteView screens is occurring spontaneously. One example is the Deer Park Elementary School in Fairfax County, Virginia.
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