Data Set Description for Chapter 8: The CHES Dataset

Data Exercise Contributor: Jens Wäckerle


The Chapel Hill Expert Survey provides expert estimates for party positions for European parties and has been conducted since 1999. It is run by Gary Marks, Marco Steenbergen, Ryan Bakker, Liesbet Hooge, Seth Jolly, Jonathan Polk, Jan Rovny and Milada Vachudova. The name of the survey derives from the university of the researchers that have founded the survey. Waves of the survey were conducted in 1999, 2002, 2006, 2014, 2017 and 2019. The survey provides researchers with expert ratings of political parties on key ideological positions as well as salience. The dataset can be accessed here. We present the dataset below, with tables and figures appearing in the panel on the right. While reading, please keep in mind the questions you see on the right and answer them once you reached the end. In the final panel, we provide a link to a platform with an interactive version of the dataset and additional tasks.

Table 1: General Tasks for the Dataset
How well do the party families described in chapter 8 map onto the European ideological space?
Which party families appear to be more ideologically unified and which more dispersed?
What kind of relationship exists between left-right position and support for the EU and why?
Looking at the extreme parties in Europe, are they more defined by the cultural or the economic dimension?

Dataset Description

Overall Information

As an example, Table 2 shows a part of the 2017 dataset with some of the parties coded in Germany and Greece. The dataset in previous years also provided their seat share and vote share for the elections before. The parties were also coded into party families (more on this later) and have an indicator whether they are in Eastern or Western Europe. Please note that some of these questions might not be available for all waves of the survey.

Table 2: General Information in the CHES dataset
country eastwest party party_id
22 ge 1 CDU 301
23 ge 1 SPD 302
24 ge 1 FDP 303
25 ge 1 GRUNEN 304
26 ge 1 LINKE 306
27 ge 1 CSU 308
28 ge 1 AfD 310
29 ge 1 Piraten 311
30 ge 1 DieTier 312
31 gr 1 PASOK 401
32 gr 1 ND 402
33 gr 1 SYRIZA 403
34 gr 1 KKE 404
35 gr 1 XA 415
36 gr 1 EL 416

EU positions

Table 3 show mean estimates of the expert ratings for the EU positions for the German parties in the dataset. The question is worded: “overall orientation of the party leadership towards European integration in 2019”. A higher number (on the 1 to 7 scale) means a strong pro-European position. In Germany, the CDU, SPD and the Greens are strongly pro-EU, while the FDP and Linke are neutral. Meanwhile, the AfD is strongly critical towards the EU. Additionally, the variable eu_salience describes the importance of the EU for the party. Here, 0 is coded as “European Integration is of no importance, never mentioned”, while 10 represents “European Integration is the most important issue.”. The EU is the most important for the SPD and the AfD, albeit for different reasons as the former supports EU integration while the latter opposes it. The variable eu_dissent describes the degree of dissent among the party on EU policy. Here, the AfD and the Greens are particularly unified on EU policy, while other parties are more likely to dissent according to the experts. Finally, the dataset provides several variables to dive deeper into aspects of EU policy.

Table 3: EU positions in the CHES dataset
party eu_position eu_salience eu_dissent eu_blur eu_cohesion
22 CDU 6.285714 6.857143 2.636364 3.555556 5.250000
23 SPD 6.523809 6.857143 2.363636 2.777778 5.437500
24 FDP 5.761905 5.666666 3.727273 4.111111 3.823529
25 GRUNEN 6.761905 7.333334 1.454546 1.888889 5.800000
26 LINKE 4.714286 4.850000 5.090909 4.666666 5.200000
27 CSU 5.684210 6.600000 3.636364 4.000000 4.941176
28 AfD 1.904762 6.714286 2.909091 3.000000 3.000000

Ideological positions

Table 4 shows the major ideological positions included in the dataset. The variable “lrgen” provides an overall ideological position of the party on a left-right dimension. The German parties are ordered as expected: the Left and Greens are on the ideological left, the SPD, CDU and FDP in the centre and the AfD on the far right. However, the overall left-right scale might hide more specific ideological differences between parties. Two ideological scales that are included in the dataset are the economical as well as the cultural left-right scale. The economic-related scale is called “lrecon” and it ranges from 0 (“Extreme left”) to 10 (“Extreme right”). In Germany we can see that the AfD is much less extreme relative to the other parties on economic issues, while the Left is now clearly differentiated from the Greens. The dataset also provides measures of how clear the economic position is (lrecon_clear) and how salient that area is for the party (lrecon_salience). Additionally, the dataset provides a scale for cultural ideology called “galtan”. This scale ranges from 0 (“Libertarian/Postmaterialist” or GAL) to 10 (“Traditional/Authoritarian” or TAN). These two scales illustrate te special position of the FDP in the German party system, as the FDP is on the left and positioned close to the SPD, Left and Greens on the GALTAN scale, but far away from them on the economic scale.

Table 4: Ideological positions in the CHES dataset
party lrgen lrecon galtan
22 CDU 5.857143 5.904762 5.857143
23 SPD 3.619048 3.714286 3.380952
24 FDP 6.428571 7.904762 3.428571
25 GRUNEN 3.238095 3.809524 1.095238
26 LINKE 1.428572 1.285714 2.809524
27 CSU 7.190476 6.380952 7.285714
28 AfD 9.238095 7.000000 9.523809

Additional Information

Finally, the CHES dataset provides additional, more specific policy questions, for example on multiculturalism, immigration and populism, an example of which is shown in Table 5. These positions differ in each wave of the survey, but provide a very important datasource for the study of parties in Europe.

Table 5: Specific policy positions in the CHES dataset
party immigrate_policy multiculturalism redistribution people_vs_elite
22 CDU 6.00 7.050000 5.9473686 1.700000
23 SPD 4.15 4.250000 3.0526316 2.450000
24 FDP 5.95 5.764706 8.5789471 2.350000
25 GRUNEN 1.70 1.900000 3.4210527 4.900000
26 LINKE 2.70 2.764706 0.8947368 4.350000
27 CSU 7.70 8.450000 6.3157897 2.842105
28 AfD 9.90 9.950000 6.0000000 8.315789

Country Coverage of the Chapel Hill Expert Survey

Figure 1 shows the countries included in each iteration of the dataset. Some countries (such as Germany and Spain) have been included in all iterations of the dataset. Others have been added over time, such as countries that joined the EU at a later date, as well as non-EU countries Turkey, Norway and Switzerland. The survey in 2017 was run as a “flash survey”, therefore not covering all countries. The results from 1999 to 2014 are available as a trend file, facilitating the analysis of paty positions over time. The standard data format is a stata (or csv) file that shows the aggregated means for each party. The team also provides an expert-level dataset that shows each expert’s individual coding (for example in order to identify parties on which the experts disagreed).

Figure 1: Countries Included in the CHES Dataset

Figure 1: Countries Included in the CHES Dataset

The parties in the CHES dataset

Figure 2 shows all parties in the CHES dataset in 2017. On the x-axis, we plotted their economic position (called lrecon in the CHES dataset), ranging from 0 (extreme left) to 10 (extreme right). Parties on the left campaign for government involvement in the economy and regulation, often to better fund the welfare state. Parties on the right campaign for less government involvement, a more free market oriented economic policy and a leaner welfare state. On the y-axis, we plotted the “galtan” dimension of the CHES dataset, representing the cultural ideological dimension. Again, a value of 0 represents the extreme left, while a value of 10 represents the extreme right. Parties on the left are called “libertarian” or “postmaterialist” and campaign on issues such as personal freedoms, civil rights and democratic participation. Parties on the right are described as “traditional” or “authoritarian” and campaign on social order, upholding traditions and morals.

We can also see that while there seem to be more parties along the diagonal axis (being either on the left in both economic and cultural terms), there are a number of parties located in the opposite quadrants, namely parties that are economically right, but culturally left, or vice versa. We can also see that there is considerable overlap between the party families. We will take a closer look at these families in subsequent plots. According to the codebook of the CHES dataset, “family attribution is based primarily on Derksen classification (now incorporated in Wikipedia), triangulated by a) membership or affiliation with EP party families b) Parlgov classifications and c) self-identification”. The CHES team also points out that it “endeavor[s] to carefully classify all parties; however, some parties are easier to categorize than others. For instance, some parties fit into two or more categories (e.g., Lega Nord can be classified as Radical Right and Regionalist). CHES users are advised to review family codings to ensure they match their own research goals.” One additional way to classify parties is using the Europeas Parliament group they joined.