Topic-Factorized Ideal Point Estimation Model for Legislative Voting Network

author: Yupeng Gu, College of Computer and Information Science, Northeastern University
published: Oct. 7, 2014,   recorded: August 2014,   views: 1641


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Ideal point estimation that estimates legislators' ideological positions and understands their voting behavior has attracted studies from political science and computer science. Typically, a legislator is assigned a global ideal point based on her voting or other social behavior. However, it is quite normal that people may have different positions on different policy dimensions. For example, some people may be more liberal on economic issues while more conservative on cultural issues. In this paper, we propose a novel topic-factorized ideal point estimation model for a legislative voting network in a unified framework. First, we model the ideal points of legislators and bills for each topic instead of assigning them to a global one. Second, the generation of topics are guided by the voting matrix in addition to the text information contained in bills. A unified model that combines voting behavior modeling and topic modeling is presented, and an iterative learning algorithm is proposed to learn the topics of bills as well as the topic-factorized ideal points of legislators and bills. By comparing with the state-of-the-art ideal point estimation models, our method has a much better explanation power in terms of held-out log-likelihood and other measures. Besides, case studies show that the topic-factorized ideal points coincide with human intuition. Finally, we illustrate how to use these topic-factorized ideal points to predict voting results for unseen bills.

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