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Text as Policy: Measuring Policy Similarity Through Bill Text Reuse

37 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2016 Last revised: 1 May 2017

Fridolin Linder

Pennsylvania State University, College of the Liberal Arts, Department of Political Science

Bruce A. Desmarais

Pennsylvania State University

Matthew Burgess

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Eugenia Giraudy

University of California, Berkeley, Students

Date Written: May 1, 2017

Abstract

The identification of substantively similar policy proposals in both proposed and adopted legislation is important to scholars of public policy diffusion and legislative politics. Conventional, manual, approaches are prohibitively costly in constructing datasets that accurately represent policymaking across policy domains, geographic units, and/or time. We propose the use of text-sequencing algorithms, applied to legislative text, to identify bills that introduce similar policy proposals. We present three ground truth tests, applied to a corpus of 500,000 bills from US-state legislatures. First, we show that bills introduced by ideologically similar sponsors are more likely to exhibit a high degree of text reuse. Second, we show that bills classified by the National Council of State Legislatures as covering the same policies exhibit a high degree of text reuse. Third, we show that rates of text reuse across state borders correlate strongly with the diffusion networks recently introduced by Desmarais, Harden and Boehmke (2015).

Keywords: Policy Similarity, Text Reuse, Text Alignment, Policy Diffusion

Suggested Citation

Linder, Fridolin and Desmarais, Bruce A. and Burgess, Matthew and Giraudy, Eugenia, Text as Policy: Measuring Policy Similarity Through Bill Text Reuse (May 1, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2812607

Fridolin Linder (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University, College of the Liberal Arts, Department of Political Science ( email )

University Park
State College, PA 16801
United States

Bruce Desmarais

Pennsylvania State University ( email )

University Park, State College, PA 16801
United States

HOME PAGE: http://sites.psu.edu/desmaraisgroup

Matthew Burgess

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science ( email )

1101 Beal Avenue
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

Eugenia Giraudy

University of California, Berkeley, Students ( email )

525 F. Haas School of Business
Berkeley, CA
United States

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