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The politics of scrutiny in human rights monitoring: evidence from structural topic models of US State Department human rights reports

Bagozzi, Benjamin E. and Berliner, Daniel (2016) The politics of scrutiny in human rights monitoring: evidence from structural topic models of US State Department human rights reports. Political Science Research and Methods. pp. 1-17. ISSN 2049-8470

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Identification Number: 10.1017/psrm.2016.44

Abstract

Human rights monitoring reports play important roles both in the international human rights regime and in productions of human rights data. However, human rights reports are produced by organizations subject to formal and informal pressures that may influence the topics considered salient for attention and scrutiny. We study this potential using structural topic models (STMs), a method used for identifying the latent topical dimensions of texts and assessing the effects of covariates on these dimensions. We apply STMs to a corpus of 6298 State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (1977–2012), identifying a plausible set of topics including killings and disappearances, freedoms of expression and movement, and labor rights, among others. We find that these topics vary markedly both over time and space. We also find that while US domestic politics play no systematic role in shaping topic prevalence, US allies tend to receive more attention to violations of physical integrity rights. These results challenge extant research, and illustrate the usefulness of STM methods for future study of foreign policy documents. Our findings also highlight the importance of topical attention shifts in documents that monitor and evaluate countries.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/political-...
Additional Information: © 2016 The European Political Science Association
Divisions: Government
Subjects: J Political Science > JK Political institutions (United States)
Sets: Departments > Government
Date Deposited: 23 Nov 2017 14:36
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2019 02:35
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/85721

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