A gold mine for anyone who wants to study Swedish parties

Montage: Torbjörn Berglund

(Published 2012-10-17)
The SND database Vi vill! is a gold mine for anyone interested in the Swedish parliamentary parties. The database contains over 200 programs and manifestos from 1887 to the present day. The documents raise interest both from a historical and from a contemporary perspective. An example of the latter was when Sofia Arkelsten, former party secretary in the Moderate Party, claimed that the party was involved in the struggle for free and equal suffrage.

It was in October last year Sofia Arkelsten (M) made her statement about the role the Moderate Party had played in the introduction of universal suffrage in Sweden. There was an extensive debate on her statement, and immediately after it had started, SND noticed a substantial increase in the number of visitors to the web service Vi vill! ¹

– During an average day, we have around 160 visitors in the database. The most intense day of the debate concerning Arkelsten’s statement, we had 541 visitors, says Olof Olsson, web developer at SND.

There are several possibilities for users to search the material in Vi vill! and it is easy to get the data you want to analyze. All party programs and manifestos in the database are transformed into HTML, txt and tei. They are also available at Språkbanken (the Swedish Language Bank) as a corpus if you prefer to work in this format.

The story behind Vi vill! extends further back than to the database on the website. In 2002 the collection was published on a CD with a rich variety of search options. The collection was the result of a collaboration between the Swedish Social Science Data Service (SND's predecessor) and Norwegian Social Science Data Services (NSD).

– The Swedish Vi vill! was created a bit of a coincidence. It all started when I met John-Erik Ågotnes at an expert seminar in 1999, where he presented the Norwegian Vi vil! that NSD had developed. I knew we had at least 50 years of complete text material in the archives at the department of political science here in Gothenburg, so I thought we should be able to create something similar with the Swedish data, says Birger Jerlehag, IT coordinator at SND.

Since NSD released the source code and shared all the software, it was very easy to make the Swedish party material available. However, before this could be done, a careful proofreading of the older material was required.

– The language of the older texts differs from the modern. Therefore, we had to correct the older texts manually. The spelling programs shone completely red, so they were of no use, says Birger Jerlehag.

More information about the Norwegian Vi vil! can be found here.

Party programs and manifestos from Finland are collected in the database Pohtiva (in Finnish).

In the Manifesto Project Database, party material from elections in more than 50 countries is available for quantitative content analysis.

¹The material in Vi vill! is only available in Swedish.