Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Teaching the Political Science "Brand" through Scaling Analysis


Political Science Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Social and Behavioral Sciences


In this paper I present a theoretical rationale and curriculum for incorporating multi-dimensional scaling analysis into an undergraduate methods course. In American political science, the technique has long been used to measure political ideologies (Marcus, Tabb and Sullivan 1974), voter coalitions (Aldrich and McKelvey 1974), judicial decision making (Brazilla and Grofman 2002), and an extension of it is central to the study of roll call voting in the U. S. Congress (Poole 1988). Frequently, in these applications of the technique one end product of the analysis is to draw a graphical figure, which illustrates spatially the characteristics of the objects, such as which voter coalitions are more or less similar to one another along two dimensions (such as ideology and political involvement), while controlling for other characteristics. I explain how this type of analysis is both intuitively accessible and an analytically powerful technique of analysis suitable for undergraduate students. In 2010, the president of the American Political Science Association, in his annual address to the association, discussed the subject of spatial diagrams, such as those produced by MDS, as the "brand" of political science, much in the same way that supply-demand curves are the "brand" of economics (Brady 2011). Yet, this technique of data analysis is curiously absent from undergraduate level research methodology textbooks. The paper will include curricular materials deposited at the Online Portal for Education in Social Science Methodology (OPOSSEM).

Conference Name

2014 APSA Teaching and Learning Conference

Conference Location

Philadelphia, PA

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