A research note on the computational identification of political elites

Article by KITLV researchers Jacqueline Hicks, Vincent Traag and Ridho Reinanda in the International Journal of Comparative Sociology: ‘Old questions, new techniques: research note on the computational identification of political elites‘.

This paper presents a new method of identifying a nation’s political elite using computational techniques on digitised newspaper articles. It begins by describing the three most widely used methods of identifying political elites: positional, decisional and reputational. It then introduces the “reported elite method”, exploring the kinds of elites it detects and how well it reflects the composition of political elites in our case study of Indonesia. Compared to the other existing methods, we find that our method casts a much wider net when searching for political elites, resulting in many more people from civil society, far fewer formal politicians, and challenging conventional notions of who is a political elite. The method has two major underlying assumptions: (1) the newspapers from which the texts are drawn are free and fairly representative and (2) political power can be inferred from frequent appearance in newspapers alongside other frequently appearing individuals in computational “communities” of political elite.

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