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SISP Conference 2022

Sections and Panels

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Section 9 - Methodology of Research

Managers: Luigi Curini (, Vincenzo Memoli (

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Il discorso metodologico in scienza politica vive da tempo una stagione di grande vivacità e elaborazione autonoma.
La disciplina ha maturato un crescente interesse per disegni e modelli capaci di più credibili inferenze causali, costruendo su differenti definizioni di causalità e assunti ontologici. Ha ospitato dibattiti di ampia portata su vantaggi e limiti del disegno sperimentale (e quasi-sperimentale), e sulla sua applicabilità ai contesti osservativi. Ha promosso l’uso innovativo di diversi linguaggi per l’analisi empirica – naturale, frequentista, Bayesiano, Booleano – per sfruttarne la diversa presa sui fenomeni politici e istituzionali. Ha sviluppato soluzioni efficaci per affrontare le sfide poste dai Big Data per gli studi politici.
Il rinnovato eclettismo tecnico ha impresso nuova forza e direzione a discussioni sul rapporto fra impianto teorico, modelli formali, disegno della ricerca, metodi, e concetti, standard di credibilità, e finalità della ricerca.

La Sezione 9 favorisce la discussione sui problemi della ricerca teorica ed empirica di fenomeni e oggetti politici, con l’obiettivo di promuovere e diffondere soluzioni adeguate. I panel della Sezione 9 richiamano l’attenzione sulle ragioni delle scelte tecniche e metodologiche nelle reali esperienze di ricerca. Si caratterizzano per il pluralismo inclusivo, così da incoraggiare la ricchezza e la diversità degli studi politologici.

La Sezione 9 invita proposte di panel che affrontino i diversi elementi del processo di ricerca – tra cui, ma non esclusivamente, il fondamento teorico, l’analisi dei concetti, epistemologie, ontologie e modelli causali, disegno della ricerca, scelte tecniche e interpretative. Incoraggia proposte relative a studi sperimentali, statistici, configurativi, comparati, in profondità, o misti. Infine, la Sezione 10 incoraggia caldamente la partecipazione di studenti dottorali e giovani ricercatori, e ammette alla discussione lavori promettenti anche se ancora in itinere.

Panel 9.1 Methodological Advances in the Study of States’, IOs’, and NGOs’ Public Outreach

Recent methodological advances such as the leveraging of large-scale text and images-as-data have opened previously unexplored opportunities for the study of the ways in which actors communicate on the international stage. Democratic and authoritarian governments, as well as IOs and NGOs, spend a significant amount of resources to communicate with foreign publics, promote their organization or country’s attractiveness, and shape public perceptions around the world. ‘Public diplomacy’ is increasingly seen as a vital component of states and organizations’ overall outreach. This complexity and fresh evidence of the use of public diplomacy tools in major military and socio-economic conflicts, not least during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, remind us of the importance of understanding public diplomacy more rigorously, in order to contribute to conflict resolution. Moreover, scholars need to address relevant methodological puzzles that public diplomacy generates also in other timely research agendas, such as those on foreign aid and international development, climate change, and political perspectives from the Global South.

Despite the growing scholarly interest in investigating the mechanisms through which various diplomatic activities (e.g. high-level visits, public relation campaigns, cultural or educational events) influence public opinion, little is known about whether diplomatic outreach can effectively influence the target audience’s perspectives and about which methods are more apt to analyse the diplomatic activities of states, IOs, and NGOs more thoroughly. To advance this crucial research agenda, this panel invites contributions that theoretically and empirically explore the effectiveness of states and organizations’ public diplomacy, the mechanisms that describe such activities, and the methods to analyse them, addressing a non-exhaustive list of aspects including:

• Current methodological challenges in measuring and evaluating public diplomacy
• Methodological and theoretical works on how the analysis of public diplomacy can contribute to enhance the International Relations and International Political Economy research agenda
• Methods (e.g. text-as-data, images-as-data, social network analysis) to study states, IOs, and NGOs’ outreach activities
• If/how technological advances changed the way they wield public diplomacy
• Differences between democratic and autocratic, public and private, diplomacy

Chairs: Matteo C. M. Casiraghi, Tiziana Corda, Alice Iannantuoni

Discussants: Matteo C. M. Casiraghi, Alice Iannantuoni, Tiziana Corda

Papal Dividends: Popes’ Political Communications and Financial Markets
Federica Genovese, Lorenzo Crippa
The literature on the effects of international political events on markets pays significant attention to elections and institutions. Less investigated is the impact of non-conventional leaders. This paper builds on this new research agenda focusing on the market effects of communications by the Roman Catholic Pope. We study the stock market implications of the utmost relevant papal communication – the encyclical – for companies associated with the papal message. We claim that investors in many countries are sensitive to encyclicals that take a political position on relevant economic issues, because the Pope’s vision can influence political debates and policy directions in these countries. However, the interpretation of the encyclical among market actors also depends on level of politicization of the Pope, and thus on which voice dominates the national discourse around a Pope’s communication. Since liberal markets tend to favor right policy, if a Pope’s message is right-leaning and the most engaged side of the debate is right-wing, then his message could boost the returns of traditional market actors. Vice versa, a left Pope’s encyclical could hurt incumbent market actors, unless it is received in a polarized environment with strong sources of right-wing backlash, in which case the Pope’s message could have opposite effects, e.g. drop confidence in companies that benefit from left policy. We explore our argument with an event study of the effect of Pope Francis’s 2015 climate encyclical on global energy markets. We show evidence of backlash: this encyclical by Francis, who is viewed as a climate policy champion, had little effect on fossil fuel companies while it caused renewable energy companies to lose stock value. Importantly, we show that this effect is concentrated among American firms and is a result of polarization and the conservative recoil at the Pope in the early months of the US presidential campaign. The findings contribute to the assessment of the material impact of the communications of non-elected authorities, and to the literature on backlash against international institutions.
Political attitudes towards technocratic institutions. Experimental Evidence from a Survey on the European Central Bank
Manuela Moschella, Federico Maria Ferrara, Donato Masciandaro, Davide Romelli
In the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, questions about central banks’ accountability to democratic institutions and the proportionality of their expansionary measures have gained renewed attention in the public debate in Europe and elsewhere. Yet, little do we know from previous scholarship on central bank accountability about the views of elected officials on the activism of central banks in times of crisis. Do politicians see the crisis-fighting measures of central banks as legitimate and proportionate, and what drives their opinions about central bank accountability and independence? To answer these questions, we employ novel data from an elite survey of the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) during the Covid-19 crisis. First, we uncover differences in MEPs’ attitudes towards the degree of accountability and independence of the ECB in the pandemic. Corroborating the findings from previous research, we show that these differences are largely driven by the ideological stance of MEPs. Second, we make use of two embedded survey experiments to assess the causal determinants of MEPs’ views on central bank accountability. On the one hand, we show that MEPs are sensitive to information on local macroeconomic conditions in their evaluation of the importance of the ECB’s primary mandate vis-à-vis its secondary objectives. On the other hand, we provide evidence that politicians’ opinions about the desirability of the political independence of the ECB are not directly driven by information on the activism of the institution. Taken together, these findings shed new light on the determinants of the accountability relationship between politicians and central bankers in Europe.
Up-and-down: countries' emulation strategies on lockdown regulations during the Pandemic period
Luigi Curini, Gianmarco Daniele, Piero Stanig
We investigate cross-country emulation of NPI policies during the Covid pandemic using the toolbox of spatial econometrics. Our dataset comprises almost two years and half of daily observations, covering all the distinct waves of the Covid pandemic, as well as the various tides of tightening and relaxation of lockdown measures implemented across countries. We explore different matrices of spatial weights--from the most general one, that assigns equal weight to the strategies employed by all the other countries but the target one; to more specific ones, based on geographical proximity or ideological closeness of governments. In addition, we take into consideration the relative degree of "consensus" across countries on the measures enacted to respond to the pandemic. Assuming risk-averse governments, we hypothesize an asymmetry in the pattern of response by a given government to the policy choices of other countries, depending on the phase of the pandemic (peak vs. decline) itself. During phases of increased Covid transmission, more stringent measures elsewhere induce emulation; conversely, during phases of subsiding infections, relaxation of the NPI policies elsewhere does not induce emulation. Preliminary results confirm the existence of this asymmetric response. At the peak of the crisis, governments follow the lead of others and base their decisions on what other countries do, and more so when the "consensus" across countries regarding the need for more stringent measures is broader. Conversely, in phases during which the pandemic subsides and some countries experiment with relaxation of the measures, emulation across countries drastically declines. We discuss the broader implications of our findings for the literature on policy diffusion. NPI policies provide a unique opportunity to study policy emulation and diffusion as they were largely novel and untested, and their effects were ex ante unknown and ex post unclear. In such a low-information environment, taking cues from one's peers might be the only politically safe approach a government might adopt.
Ideology and the Strategic Use of Executive Action: Evidence from the Italian Case
Umberto Platini
This paper analyses the role of government fragmentation as predictor of the use of emergency decrees in parliamentary democracies. In particular, it focuses on the relationship between ideological divisiveness within cabinets and the choice by executives to issue emergency decrees rather initiating ordinary legislative procedures. A Bayesian multilevel analysis conducted on the population of government-initiated legislation in Italy between 1996 and 2018 finds significant evidence that those legislative proposals which are further away from the ideological centre of gravity of the executive are around three times more likely to be issued as emergency decrees. Likewise, legislative projects regulating more contentious policy areas are significantly more likely to be issued by decree. However, for more contentious issues the importance of ideological distance as a predictor diminishes. This evidence suggests that cabinets prefer decrees to ordinary legislative procedures when they expect that the bargaining environment in Parliament is more hostile. These results persist regardless of the fluctuations of the political-economic cycle. Their robustness is also tested against a battery of controls and against fixed effects both at the government level and at the legislature level.

Panel 9.2 Rethinking Qualitative Comparative Analysis: same tools, different standards?

Qualitative Comparative Analysis can serve different purposes, ‘both descriptive and explanatory, which include summarizing data, creating typologies, checking the coherence of subset relations, evaluating existing hypotheses, testing atheoretical conjectures, and developing new theories’ (Thomann and Maggetti 2017). However, applied research seems to appeal to a single standard setting across purposes.

The panel welcomes contributions that can cast light on the theoretical or pragmatic reasons to avoid fine-tuning analytic standards on the basis of research purposes, and on the advantages and risks of such fine-tuning.

Chairs: Giulia Bazzan, Alessia Damonte

Discussants: Giulia Bazzan, Alessia Damonte

Enten-eller, can QCA deal with double outcomes? The case of sustainable mobility policies
Niccolò Donati, Martin Henry Herzig
Policymakers are increasingly relying on the concept of policy integration to design policies that can serve more than one goal. A clear example are the eco-social policy, whose objective is to achieve both effective contrast to climate change and social legitimacy. The recent case of the yellow vests protests in France shows why in designing policies we should also puzzle about their legitimacy: the survival of effective policies that are not considered legitimate can be put at stake by mass protests. Can QCA assist in finding policy mixes, i.e. combination of different instruments, that can be both effective in inducing climate-friendly behaviours, as well as granting political legitimacy? In this research we will analyse the sustainable mobility policies of a selected group of German towns, focusing on the measures to promote the electric vehicles market. This type of policy requires behavioural change from policy-takers; this calls for effective policy tools that target undesired/desired behaviour by reducing their optionality. This, however, can hinder political legitimacy. How to reconcile both dimensions? In our research, we intend to find a combination of policy instruments that can be able to grant effective policies, and hence, the effective change in behaviour of the citizens, as well as political legitimacy of the measures adopted, and hence, the sustainability of the policies. We intend to discuss how the QCA method and design can be used to select such policy mixes, and how to fine-tune QCA settings to show the relation of necessity between the two outcomes.
Rethinking QCA: same tools, different standards?
Alessia Damonte, Giulia Bazzan
Qualitative Comparative Analysis can serve different purposes, ‘both descriptive and explanatory, which include summarizing data, creating typologies, checking the coherence of subset relations, evaluating existing hypotheses, testing atheoretical conjectures, and developing new theories’ (Thomann and Maggetti 2017). The paper explores whether applied research appeals to a single standard setting across purposes, or variations can instead be detected that respond to the rationale of research purposes.
Two-sample test for simultaneous subset relationships in Qualitative Comparative Analysis
Francesco Veri
In qualitative comparative analysis (QCA), simultaneous subset relationships, or when a solution term X is in subset relation with the outcome Y and its absence ~Y, can be considered false-positive results. In order to detect simultaneous subset bias, QCA literature proposed the parameter of proportion reduction inconsistency (PRI). In contrast, Braumoeller proposed two false-positive tests based on consistency and counterexamples levels to identify false-positive results. As discussed in this paper, both approaches do not guarantee the identification of simultaneous subset relationships. In addition, this article introduces a test based on decreasing in transposition within subclasses statistics that allows one to identify algorithmic-generated regularities at the origins of simultaneous subset relationships. The proposed test allows one to compare empirical solutions' patterns with spurious solutions' patterns, reducing the risk of causal fallacies in interpreting the empirical results.