CRCS Seminar: "Uncovering Vote Trading Through Networks and Computation"


Monday, April 10, 2017, 11:30am to 1:00pm


MD 119

Uncovering Vote Trading Through Networks and Computation


Vote trading, also commonly known as logrolling, is a cornerstone of the positive analysis of politicians' behavior in collective decision making. However, as the trading of votes is not directly observable, studying vote trading empirically is very challenging. We have developed a general and scalable methodology that facilitates the detection of logrolling on a large scale. In principle, our approach can be applied to a broad variety of voting data (beyond the realm of legislative assemblies), and refined for specific contexts. It allows us, for example, to study whether the prevalence of logrolling differs between different institutional settings or how it evolves over time. The flexibility of our method is expected to shed new light on many aspects of legislative logrolling. We validate our method with a Monte Carlo study in which we have full control over the number of traded votes. Finally, we demonstrate our framework in an analysis of four decades of roll call voting in the U.S. Congress.


Ulrich Matter is a Visiting Researcher at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and is appointed as Assistant Professor in Applied Econometrics at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. Before coming to Harvard, he was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Basel and a visiting researcher at the University of Oxford. His primary research interests lie at the intersection of political economics, media economics, and computational social science. He is particularly interested in how to exploit large web-based data on political processes and new computational methods for politico-economic research, as well as how politico-economic forces shape the Internet. Ulrich is currently a fellow of the Swiss National Science Foundation and is a recipient of the Baume & Mercier Dissertation award in 2015, and recipient of a 2015 University of Basel Research Fund grant. He graduated with a Ph.D. from the Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Basel.