Ends Against the Middle: Measuring Latent Traits When Opposites Respond the Same Way for Antithetical Reasons

Abstract

Standard methods for measuring latent traits from categorical data assume that response functions are monotonic. This assumption is violated when individuals from both extremes respond identically but for conflicting reasons. Two survey respondents may ``disagree’’ with a statement for opposing motivations, liberal and conservative justices may dissent from the same Supreme Court decision but provide ideologically contradictory rationales, and in legislative settings, ideological opposites may join together to oppose moderate legislation in pursuit of antithetical goals. In this article, we introduce a scaling model that accommodates ends against the middle responses and provide a novel estimation approach that improves upon existing routines. We apply this method to survey data, voting data from the United States Supreme Court, and the 116th Congress, and show it outperforms standard methods in terms of both congruence with qualitative insights and model fit. This suggests that our proposed method may offer improved one-dimensional estimates of latent traits in many important settings.

Publication
Political Analysis
JBrandon Duck-Mayr
JBrandon Duck-Mayr
Assistant Professor of Government

I research American political institutions, with a particular focus on judicial decision making and the role of law in judicial politics.