Estimating the political center from aggregate data: an item response theory alternative to the Stimson dyad ratios algorithm

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This article provides an algorithm to produce a time series estimate of the political center (or median voter) from aggregate survey data, even when the same questions are not asked in most years. This is compared to the existing Stimson dyad ratios approach, which has been applied to various questions in political science. Unlike the dyad ratios approach, the model developed here is derived from an explicit model of individual behavior – the widely used item response theory model. I compare the results of both techniques using the data on public opinion from the United Kingdom from 1947-2005 from Bartle, Dellepiane-Avellaneda and Stimson (2011a). Measures of overall model fit are provided, as well as techniques for testing model’s assumptions and the fit of individual items. Full code is provided for estimation with free software WinBUGS and JAGS.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-129
Number of pages15
JournalPolitical Analysis
Issue number1
Early online date4 Dec 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • algorithms
  • Stimson dyad ratios algorithm
  • survey data
  • response theory model

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