Measuring Political Elite Networks With Wikidata

Omer Faruk Yalcin (Pennsylvania State University)

Abstract: An important issue in the study of comparative political elite networks is the elusiveness of cross-country empirical measurement. Most studies of political elites focus on country or region-specific institutions and use ad-hoc data collection methods like surveys and archival data, making comparative work difficult. This paper introduces a new way of measuring political elite networks using WikiData. A project by the Wikimedia Foundation, WikiData serves as a source of structured data for identifying political elites and their politically-relevant relationships. WikiData is a collaborative effort to bring structure to data in projects like Wikipedia, by recording not only entities like people, places,and, institutions—i.e. “items”—but also the relationships between them, such as parent, child, alma mater, country of citizenship, etc.—i.e. “Properties.” WikiData does not cover every person and event, but its bias toward notable people make it useful for the study of political elites. It has the additional advantage of providing multilayer data since it records different types of relationships. With an application to kinship networks among governing elites, the initial results show a strong negative relationship between the density of kinship networks among politicians, military personnel, and businesspeople and the Polity IV score in 77 countries.

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