Observatory of Political Texts in European Democracies (OPTED)


The democracies in the European Union and around the world are facing major challenges. Populist parties are gaining more and more support among the population, and even anti-democratic forces are becoming increasingly visible. Political science can make an important contribution to strengthening democracies by helping to better understand these processes and to find answers to the challenges that arise.

An important source for such analyses can be found in political texts. Texts are important testimonies to the positions of political actors and they can shed light on how ideas and opinions evolve over time and in the interaction of different actors. Especially through social media, but also through the Internet in general, the abundance of political texts has grown considerably in recent decades, while at the same time access to the texts has become much easier. In addition, there have been far-reaching developments in the field of automated text analysis, which have made it possible to subject even large quantities of text, which previously could hardly be processed manually, to content analysis. In recent years, these developments have led to a large number of new and innovative projects in the political and communication sciences, which have been able to address both old and new questions with these new analytical methods.

However, this is done primarily in a decentralized manner in individual projects, which often focus only on specific actors in the political process or on specific platforms of exchange (e.g. social media, parliaments). In order to get a complete picture of the political processes and current challenges, however, it is necessary to network these projects, make the data collected comparable and linkable, and promote the exchange of methods, their opportunities and weaknesses, in this still developing field.

OPTED is dedicated to this task by bringing together researchers from different European institutions with the aim of creating the basis for a large European infrastructure that will pool information on existing text sources, facilitate access to them, test and provide tools for their analysis, and provide training for researchers, students, and also journalists.

These goals will be pursued in a total of 10 work packages (WP), two of which will be partly based at the WZB. WP4 deals with texts from political organizations (for example, parties and citizens' movements). The WP is responsible for taking stock of existing texts and methods of analysis and for working on the further development of methods that allow, in particular, the comparative analysis of different types of texts produced by political organizations. WP5 is entrusted with the texts of legislative actors at national and European level. In this context, text corpora on national parliamentary debates and on legislative texts of the European Union that have already been collected in the Global Governance department are used in a feasibility study on the application and expansion of such text data for current political issues.