In this seminar the link between case study methods and research design and formal models of politics are considered. We show spatial models of politics can be used as a bridge between in-depth case study research and more formalised models of politics developed by game theorists, when conducting research on the strategic interactions between actors in a political system.
The seminar explains spatial models of politics, using the “Decision-making in the European Union” (DEU) project research design, as an example.
This case study explores the input and outputs of the legislative process in the EU using spatial models as a framework in which to capture data on actor policy positions and policy outcomes.
Spatial models can be used as a concrete theoretical framework in which actor policy positions within a given EU negotiation can be captured and related to one another. The data for each individual EU negotiation is collected by researchers through a series of in-depth semi-structured interviews with stakeholders involved in the negotiations of interest.
Each legislative negotiation considered by the DEU project can be seen as a detailed case study of the negotiations surround an individual legislative proposal put forward by the EU Commission. Questions about how interview data was translated into positional data in a spatial modelling framework were raised and discussed.
Methods for triangulation of interview data against legislative records are shown to be one way in which to verify collected data. The collected data can later be used to test a whole host of formal models of decision-making and strategic interaction between negotiators.
Having discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the spatial modelling framework as implemented in the DEU project, we can consider how case-study methods and formal modelling approaches share some epistemological assumptions about how to approach the study of political systems.
In political science spatial models and formal analysis can compliment case-study methods and act as a tool for theory building and advancing political research when scholars are interested in the logical implications of a given set of assumptions in a particular setting.