Political Analysis, 27(3): 302-319
According to spatial models of political competition, parties strategically adjust their ideological positions to movements made by rival parties. Spatial econometric models have been proposed to empirically model such interdependencies and to closely convert theoretical expectations into statistical models. Yet, these models often ignore that the parties’ ideological positions are latent variables and, as such, accompanied by a quantifiable amount of uncertainty. As a result, the implausible assumption of perfectly measured covariates impedes a proper evaluation of theoretical propositions. In order to bridge this gap between theory and empirics, the present work combines a spatial econometric model and a Bayesian dynamic item response model. The proposed model accurately accounts for measurement uncertainty and simultaneously estimates the parties’ ideological positions and their spatial interdependencies. To verify the model’s utility, I apply it to recorded votes from the sixteen German state legislatures in the period from 1988 to 2016. While exhibiting a notable degree of ideological mobility, the results indicate only moderate spatial dependencies among parties of the same party family. More importantly, the analysis illustrates how measurement uncertainty can lead to substantively different results which stresses the importance of appropriately incorporating theoretical expectations into statistical models.