Website allows for international policy comparison

Janelle Polcyn

Professors and students expanded a website on Tuesday that will allow the comparison of government policies of over 20 different nations dating back to 1946.

Government professor Bryan Jones, University of North Carolina professor Frank Baumgartner and students from UT’s College of Liberal Arts expanded the Comparative Agenda Project, a website that allows the comparison of government policies for international use.

The project began 20 years ago as the American Agenda Project, a database of exclusively American policies. Later, while teaching at the University of Washington, Jones converted the database into an interactive website. On March 1, the website became the Comparative Agenda Project, when it was expanded to include policies from other nations.

“Previously, research across a couple of countries required reaching out to each country project individually and hope that they would share their data with you and that it was in some way similar,” said government graduate student Rebecca Eissler. “Now the data is all freely available, and we have worked hard to make sure that it is coded the same way.” 

Jones said combining data from multiple countries appeared difficult because of their differences in government but proved to be a simple feat.

“Most modern democracies seem to face the same problems — come up with different solutions — but tracing how much democracies talk about particular policy problems seemed to us an important thing to do,” Jones said. “I didn’t think it was going to work [internationally] because we did it in the American context, but it turns out it works out great.”

Government graduate student Annelis Russel, who helped develop the website, said that the information in the database gives users “the ability to constantly compare policy outputs across political systems and over time.” 

“One of the ways our data is most relatable to current events is the ability to see how policy action over time can lead to the world’s current state of affairs,” Russell said. “As our world becomes less isolated and more globalized, we can understand policy shifts, not only within our own country but across countries.”

Jones said that while countries might appear isolated and unique in their issues, further inspection reveals nations face similar policy dilemmas.

“We tend to think of countries as very separate entities doing their own thing, but it turns out that most modern democracies … meet the same sort of policy problems,” Jones said.