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Estimating Dynamic State Preferences from United Nations Voting Data


  • Michael A. Bailey
  • Anton Strezhnev
  • Erik Voeten


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael A. Bailey & Anton Strezhnev & Erik Voeten, 2017. "Estimating Dynamic State Preferences from United Nations Voting Data," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 61(2), pages 430-456, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:jocore:v:61:y:2017:i:2:p:430-456
    DOI: 10.1177/0022002715595700

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Axel Dreher & Valentin F. Lang & Sebastian Ziaja, 2017. "Foreign Aid in Areas of Limited Statehood," CESifo Working Paper Series 6340, CESifo.
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    5. Dreher, Axel & Fuchs, Andreas & Hodler, Roland & Parks, Bradley C. & Raschky, Paul A. & Tierney, Michael J., 2019. "African leaders and the geography of China's foreign assistance," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 140(C), pages 44-71.
    6. Dreher, Axel & Lang, Valentin & Rosendorff, B. Peter & Vreeland, James Raymond, 2018. "Buying Votes and International Organizations: The Dirty Work-Hypothesis," CEPR Discussion Papers 13290, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Kai Gehring & Valentin F. Lang, 2018. "Stigma or Cushion? IMF Programs and Sovereign Creditworthiness," CESifo Working Paper Series 7339, CESifo.
    8. Christopher Hare & Tzu-Ping Liu & Robert N. Lupton, 2018. "What Ordered Optimal Classification reveals about ideological structure, cleavages, and polarization in the American mass public," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 176(1), pages 57-78, July.
    9. Magnus Lundgren & Theresa Squatrito & Jonas Tallberg, 2018. "Stability and change in international policy-making: A punctuated equilibrium approach," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 13(4), pages 547-572, December.
    10. Scheubel, Beatrice & Tafuro, Andrea & Vonessen, Benjamin, 2018. "Stigma? What stigma? A contribution to the debate on financial market effects of IMF lending," Working Paper Series 2198, European Central Bank.
    11. Broich, Tobias, 2017. "Do authoritarian regimes receive more Chinese development finance than democratic ones? Empirical evidence for Africa," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 180-207.
    12. Ambrocio, Gene & Hasan, Iftekhar, 2019. "Friends for the benefits: The effects of political ties on sovereign borrowing conditions," Research Discussion Papers 13/2019, Bank of Finland.
    13. Angelika J. Budjan & Andreas Fuchs, 2021. "Democracy and Aid Donorship," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 13(4), pages 217-238, November.
    14. Andone, Irina & Scheubel, Beatrice, 2019. "Once bitten: new evidence on the link between IMF conditionality and IMF stigma," Working Paper Series 2262, European Central Bank.
    15. Lang, Valentin F. & Presbitero, Andrea F., 2018. "Room for discretion? Biased decision-making in international financial institutions," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 1-16.
    16. Michael A. Bailey & Erik Voeten, 2018. "A two-dimensional analysis of seventy years of United Nations voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 176(1), pages 33-55, July.
    17. Daniel Finke, 2020. "EU enlargement and foreign policy coordination: more powerful, but less cohesive?," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 15(1), pages 189-210, January.
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