Posts by Clive

I write about politics, economics, and statistics. Sometimes I might write about other things.

Stats Project: Introduction

A Short Introduction

Welcome to my stats project! I’ve wanted to do some hands-on statistical analysis for years but I’ve never gotten round to it – until now. In this post (blog? article?), I want to outline what I’m planning to do, and in future posts I’ll discuss every painful stage of my little stats project. Hopefully this will be interesting.

So what is my project? Well, I’m going to play around with some data from the European Social Survey. I’m hoping to import the data from the ESS into Excel and R, and then perform some multivariate regressions. I’m not sure exactly what data I’m going to be looking at, but I suspect I’ll end up looking at the determinants of voting behaviour. I know the academic literature on political sociology quite well so I think I know what I’m doing.

The European Social Survey

I think a good place to start with this project is to have a little look at what the ESS actually is. I know that it’s used quite a lot in academic articles and that it’s a survey that covers lots of European countries. Other than that I’m really not sure. So let’s have a look!

The ESS has been around since 2001. It collects data every two years through face-to-face interviews. It’s been conducted in 35 European countries (unless I can’t count), but only 15 countries have participated in each round of the ESS. Not to worry. I only plan on having a look at data from the UK which has participated in all 8 rounds of the ESS. The questionnaire of the ESS is made up of two parts – a core module and a rotating module. It’s an absolute beast of a survey.

But how reliable is this survey? Can I trust any conclusions I draw from its data? Fortunately, the ESS seems to have thought quite a lot about this. The main issues I can understand (I’m not used to this) are sampling, measurement error, and non-response bias. I’m going to ignore methodological concerns for the time being and assume that the ESS has designed the perfect survey. I’ll probably come back to it in a future post. Bet you can’t wait for that one!

The Way Forward

Data from the ESS is publicly available but can only be downloaded in SAS, SPSS or STATA formats. This is my first obstacle. I know that you can take this data and squish it into Excel and R but I don’t have any idea how. I’ll have to use some googlefu to work that one out. I’ll return to this project in another blog thing when I’ve done that.