MetaTOC stay on top of your field, easily

Estimating Dynamic State Preferences from United Nations Voting Data

, ,

Journal of Conflict Resolution

Published online on


United Nations (UN) General Assembly votes have become the standard data source for measures of states preferences over foreign policy. Most papers use dyadic indicators of voting similarity between states. We propose a dynamic ordinal spatial model to estimate state ideal points from 1946 to 2012 on a single dimension that reflects state positions toward the US-led liberal order. We use information about the content of the UN’s agenda to make estimates comparable across time. Compared to existing measures, our estimates better separate signal from noise in identifying foreign policy shifts, have greater face validity, allow for better intertemporal comparisons, are less sensitive to shifts in the UN’ agenda, and are strongly correlated with measures of liberalism. We show that the choice of preference measures affects conclusions about the democratic peace.