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Carlos Daez
POL 3100 Independent Study May 4, 2017
Measuring State Conditions: Quantitative Reports or Qualitative Reports?

Introduction (Dobrovolny 2008)2. Considering this

Quantity or Quality? logic for political science, measurements
This brief independent study centers of state condition are made in order to
on research methods in political science, determine and plan what can be done to
specifically whether quantitative or maintain or improve a state; evaluation
qualitative approaches to data gathering and diagnosis precedes advice.
are better suited for measuring state Analyzing political systems is also one
conditions. The main influence of this of the purposes of political science (Bond
topic is the emerging concept of state 2007)3; by partaking in this
fragility (Fund for Peace 2017)1, as measurement process, political scientists
opposed to state stability. Fragile and all the more have an incentive to decide
failed states appear more easily labelled on either a quantitative or qualitative
than stable states; research groups also method of data analysis to contribute to
more often agree on what constitutes a the general improvement and sustenance
fragile state, rather than a stable one. of states. In other words, it is important
For one group to label another as to decide on a quantitative or qualitative
fragile is controversial; is this assessment method of measuring and ultimately
and labelling of states and government determining state condition because it
influenced by quantitative or qualitative shapes the way both political scientists
data? Applying political science to and regular people understand the value
correctly identify which states are fragile of a state (Gravingholt 2015)4.
or stable requires a set method. This
project will explain how the quantitative Ramifications
approach to data gathering, rather than Research concludes that the
the qualitative approach, is better meant quantitative approach is preferable in
for measuring state conditions. researching state fragility because of its
ability to provide concrete data, its
Why Choose? convenient information-gathering
Evaluations in general are
undertaken is to provide clear 2Dobrovolny, Jackie L., and Stephanie Christine
justification for performance G. Fuentes. 2008. "Quantitative versus
improvement; evaluation can improve Qualitative Evaluation: A Tool to Decide Which
organizational decision making and to Use". Performance Improvement. 47 (4): 7.
planning, and is an important aspect of 3B Bond, Jon R. 2007. "The Scientification of
improving professions. Furthermore, the Study of Politics: Some Observations on the
evaluations provide foundations from Behavioral Evolution in Political Science". The
which institutions can build upon Journal of Politics. 69 (4): 897.
4Grvingholt, Jrn, Sebastian Ziaja, and Merle
12017 Fragile States Index. The Fund For Kreibaum. 2015. "Disaggregating state fragility:
Peace. Accessed May 4, 2017. a method to establish a multidimensional empirical typology". Third World Quarterly. 36
(7): 1282-1298.
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process, and the convertibility of its influence others to agree with their
methods. These advantages, in deviating conclusions (Bond 2007)7.
from the original qualitative Usage in General
measurement methods of traditional A common trend within the
political science, also reveal certain measuring of state conditions is the level
insights regarding the future of political of democracy. Democracy in particular is
science itself. a preferred unit of analysis because of its
ability to provide civilians with greater
Body opportunities to pursue their own
I. State Conditions security, property, and liberty; non-
History democratic regimes such as autocracies
Observing and understanding state are unable to provide as much data for
conditions is similar to visualizing the analysis. (Olson 1993)8.
states overall status; the sum of the Data sets such as the UN-updated
parts. Institutions measured vary Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
depending on the researcher, but and the Fragile States Index (FSI) from
common areas studied include the the Fund for Peace are samples of how
government, the economy, and the the measurement of certain countries
population (Fukuyama 2010)5. state conditions result in them being
When the Cold War began, political labelled as fragile states. These data sets
science transitioned to a more statistical have increasingly favored quantitative
role, and international governmental and measurement methods in determining
financial organizations such as the state condition (Brinkerhoff 2011)9.
United Nations (UN) and the World From a quantitative view, these states are
Bank (WB) sought the advice of political fragile because their ratings in specific
scientists to become the popular areas, such as human rights, or income
measurers of state conditions. Since the mobility, are lower than an established
end of the Cold War, state fragility has average. Qualitatively, these figures may
become more prevalent, and smaller not necessarily constitute fragility.
groups such as international multimedia Impact on Political Science
companies (The Economist Group, Time As the studies of state conditions are
Warner), and think-tanks (Council on inherently political, it falls upon political
Foreign Relations, Fund for Peace) have scientists to provide either quantitative
also become capable of analyzing and or qualitative data to help the major
labelling states (Paris 2011)6. A shared inter-governmental and financial
ability between these larger and smaller institutions advise the rest of the world.
organizations is the capacity to gather In addition, use of both quantitative and
large amounts of data and ultimately
7Bond, The Scientification of the Study of
Politics", 900-901
5Fukuyama, Francis. 2013. "What Is 8Olson, Mancur. 1993. "Dictatorship,
Governance?" Governance. 26 (3): 347-350. Democracy, and Development". American
Political Science Review. 87 (03): 574-575.
6Paris, Roland. 2011. "Ordering the World:
Academic Research and Policymaking on Fragile 9Brinkerhoff, Derick W. 2011. "State Fragility
States". International Studies Review. 13 (1): 61- and Governance: Conflict Mitigation and
62. Subnational Perspectives". Development Policy
Review. 29 (2): 133-134.
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qualitative methods of measurement as

scientific and humanistic approaches to
understanding the world justify the
existence of this particular social science.
(Bond 2007)10.
It is also interesting to note that the
formation of the American Political
Science Association was decided upon in
a meeting between the American
Economic Association and American
Statistical Association (Bond 2007)11.
This anecdote implies that the
measurement of politics nowadays is
based on combining figures from
economics and statistics.

II. Quantitative Data

At its most basic level, quantitative
data is associated with science and the
scientific method. With respect to a
certain area, it collects numerical and
factual data to support a hypothesis,
which may ultimately lead to a theory or
law (Moug 2007).
With the growing acceptance of
political science as a scientific pursuit,
the quantitative method of data
measurement has grown increasingly
popular. On average, political journals
(especially those based in the United
States) have slowly incorporated more
quantitative than qualitative reports, as
evident in Figure 1 below.

10Bond, The Scientification of the Study of

Politics", 903-904
11 Ibid., p. 900
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Figure 1: Trends in quantitative and qualitative studies in political science journals12

12Schedler, Andreas, and Cas Mudde. 2010. "Data Usage in Quantitative Comparative Politics". Political
Research Quarterly. 63 (2): 420.
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Usage in Measuring State

Conditions (SC)
With reliance on hard data statistics Hobbes on political questions such as the
which reflect real-time changes in meanings or order, justice, and virtue
targeted areas the quantitative method (Leca 2010)14. As qualitative data
determines state condition by the gathering is associated with traditional
numbers. The sum of a state is judged by political science, it can be said that
how well it is running its essential parts, quantitative data gathering is related
and how these actions are in line with the with modern or contemporary political
established standards of international science, wherein a group rather than an
organizations. individual can be consulted for expertise.
Considering that institutions such as Usage in Measuring SC
government, the economy, and the With long-standing political
population are measured, an example of philosophy at the heart of the qualitative
quantitative data in use determining method, state condition is determined by
state conditions would be an analysis of differing perspectives on what exactly
how well certain budgets are utilized by constitutes fragility and stability.
departments within a branch of Differing schools of political thought,
government (Fukuyama 2010)13. especially between the east and the west,
make qualitative measurement more
III. Qualitative Data unreliable in determining state
History conditions and levels. The western
Qualitative data differs from political philosophy of John Locke might
quantitative data in that it is less conclude that the United Kingdom is a
scientific. Adherence to the standards of stable state with good governance, and
the scientific method did not happen that the political system of the Peoples
until political science gained relevance at Republic of China is flawed; this does not
the onset of the Cold War. By definition, necessarily mean that eastern political
qualitative methods are more dependent philosophy of Confucius would agree
on words, interviews, and individuals, (Jing 2010)15.
rather than numbers, generalizations, But the qualitative approach has its
and groups. merits. For example, political scientist
Qualitative methods in political Francis Fukuyamas Measuring
science precede quantitative ones. This is Governance (Fukuyama 2010) presents
because the discipline is traditionally some qualitative methods of determining
based on political philosophy and theory; state condition. Fukuyama recommends
thus, traditional political science is political scientists might consider
qualitative and favors words and studying a states bureaucratic autonomy
generalizations rather than numbers and
quantitative data sheets. Before the 14Leca, Jean. 2010. "Political Philosophy in
inclusion of computing technology, big Political Science: Sixty Years on". International
data, economists, and statisticians into Political Science Review. 31 (5): 528-529.
the political science, concerned groups 15Jing, Yuejin, and Guoqin Wang. 2009.
would consult an Aristotle or a Thomas "Western Political Research Approaches and the
Development of Political Science Methodology
13 Fukuyama, What is Governance?, 352 in China". Journal of Chinese Political
Science. 14 (3): 301-304.
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(Weber 1919)16. Should studies show that with the philosophical idea of positivism
government departments within a state (Sale 2004)18. Positivism simplifies
can operate independently and interactions, teaching that problems can
efficiently of one another regardless of be solved using rational figures such as
state fragility, would that overrule the numbers and graphs.
quantitative reports? Possibly. Consider quantitative data usage in
the Fragile States Index. One aspect
IV. The Demands of the World which influences the decision on whether
Quantitative or Qualitative? a state is fragile or not would be its
Restated, the qualitative method number of emigrants (refugees). In a
is more closely related to traditional sample population of 100,000, an
political science, using foundations such emigrant count of 90,000 would be
as political philosophy and theory to easily understood and taken into
make judgements; while it may make account.
sense to study countries in the traditional Quantitative Convenience
way of political science, this is growing Second, in addition to its figures
increasingly undesirable (Flinders being concrete, the data required for a
2013)17 and less useful. The demands of quantitative measurement is often also
the world beyond political science and easily attainable. This makes the
the university prioritize utilization of the quantitative method a more convenient
quantitative method for three reasons: approach to analysis.
concreteness, convenience, and Data gathering is influenced by
convertibility. These three aspects, in available time and capacity of effort.
being useful for the world, support the Developed countries naturally have more
advantage the quantitative method over time and effort than less-developed ones,
the qualitative one in determining state and are more suited to providing desired
conditions. the desired numbers for a study. This
Quantitative Concreteness also makes the gathering and utilization
First, numbers and figures in of quantitative data a more convenient
quantitative data are concrete. In being process (Akkerman 2004)19. While the
concrete, these numbers and figures ability to provide more human
provide solid criteria and are more easily perspectives on researching state
understood than the images and words. conditions and government is desirable,
The inclusion of hard data in political qualitative data is ultimately a more
science is also an essential reason as to time-consuming process. By contrast, In-
why political science is able to be referred depth quality research involving in
to as a science in the first place (Rice insertion and assimilation of researchers
1938). is risky even though it may yield more
The use of quantitative methods in
other data-gathering studies such as 18Sale JE, and K Brazil. 2004. "A Strategy to
economics and statistics is also related Identify Critical Appraisal Criteria for Primary
Mixed-Method Studies". Quality & Quantity. 38
16 Weber 1919 (4): 352-354.
17Flinders M., and John P. 2013. "The Future of 19Akkerman, Sanne, Wilfried Admiraal, Mieke
Political Science". Political Studies Review. 11 Brekelmans, and Heinze Oost. 2008. "Auditing
(2): 222. Quality of Research in Social Sciences". Quality
and Quantity. 42 (2): 257-258.
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complex results (Moug 2007)20. Simply convertibility for quantitative political

put, data gathering for the evaluating and data (Schedler 2010)22.
reacting to state fragility is a matter of Qualitative Advantages
time and effort; therefore, data which is For a faster, more connected
more convenient and concrete is world, the concreteness, convenience,
preferable to data which is not. and convertibility of the quantitative
In labelling fragile and stable states, method would appear supreme. But
one might argue that quantitative data is political scientists do not produce the
heavily dependent on available sources; data, they merely interpret it after it has
the answer to this argument is the already been gathered. Quantitative data
development of globalism and the is in fact more susceptible to
internet, and the willingness of manipulation than qualitative data it is
governments to share certain vital not uncommon for data providers to
information with one another. bribe and purchase political scientists to
Quantitative Convertibility present findings in a specific way (White
Finally, experiences with concrete 2014)23. Qualitative data is more
numbers and convenient data gathering abstract, harder to gather, and less
methods for determining state translatable, but in being so becomes
conditions and levels of government are harder to manipulate. More will be said
more influential and easily adaptable. In about this aspect of the qualitative
doing so, these traits make the approach later.
quantitative method more convertible for Quantitative Advantages
use. Despite its flaws, the quantitative
Non-convertibility of information has approach for data gathering in todays
created conflicts in the past. In relation to contemporary political science provides
positivism, a unified, rational concrete, rational data. It is also a
interpretation of reality underlines the convenient, less time-consuming
concreteness and convenience of process. Its concrete and convenient
quantitative data gathering. Reliance on form its convertibility, making it an
the qualitative reasoning in attractive approach for governments to
measurement assumes multiple realities consult. These three advantages make
influenced by different perspectives in the qualitative method of measurement
political philosophies, and would create in less feasible. But does it completely
more questions about viability among render the methods of traditional
groups. (Leca 2010).21 political science obsolete?
For better or for worse, proactive
public reception and imitating of V. The Future of Political
quantitative studies from differing
international measurers of state
condition is also another indicator of how The State of Political Science
concreteness and convenience creates
22Schedler, Data Usage in Quantitative
20 Moug, Peter. 2007. "Non-participative Comparative Politics, 428-429
Observation in Political Research: The Poor
Relation?" Politics. 27 (2): 112. 23White P., Breckenridge R.S., and Breckenridge
R.S. 2014. "Trade-offs, limitations, and promises
21Leca, Political Philosophy in Political of big data in social science research". Review of
Science, 533 Policy Research. 31 (4): 335-337.
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Political science today appears to be Quantitative methods are proven

unaware of its own identity, or the to be increasingly favored in political
changes being imposed upon it. A science over qualitative ones a choice
recurring theme throughout studied made regarding matters of keeping the
sources is the lack of self-awareness study relevant (Flinders 2013)27. Thanks
within political science (Dunleavy 2010, to the rise of big data solutions,
Ollman 2000)24. Taking into account its quantitative data is popular, but the
origins and traditional use of qualitative limits it has in regard to answering
research methods, political science is political questions of the world are
simply defined as the study of politics ignored simply because the alternative
and government. The lack of self- would take up too much time and
awareness is attributed to the resources. Big data provides necessary
disciplines willingness despite its values for quantitative research figures
definition to spread itself thin into other for determining economic growth within
fields such as economics, statistics, and a fragile state, for example but, as
psychology. The world is moving faster mentioned earlier, is not derived from or
and faster in the digital age, and the monitored effectively by political
willingness of political science to scientists (White 2014)28. Globalization
collaborate with other fields is done out and cultural homogenization in favor of
of a need for survival (Dunleavy 2010)25. the western powers also has a side-effect
Political scientists consult with of bending all quantitative research to be
experts from these other studies to based off of western standards. The
assure that their own discipline quantitative method is dominant in its
continues to be referred to as a science. convenience, concreteness, and
This is also done because of the convertibility, but research has its limits;
prevalence and pressure to use considering globalization and big data,
quantitative data from these other fields. research is also more likely to be made in
Jon Bond, in The Scientification of the social or financial interest rather than
Study of Politics, believes that political academic interest more pressure on
science, in increasingly favoring quantitative methods in political science
quantitative research methods and (David 2002)29 in-depth qualitative
interdisciplinary measures, is at risk of analyses are sacrificed for the speediness
losing its original, qualitative-based of quantitative analyses.
identity altogether (Bond 2007)26. Although the qualitative method
has been demonstrated to be inferior for
Quantitative and Qualitative modern political science, losing it
altogether exposes the discipline to
further manipulation and loss of identity
for the future. Quantitative research
24Dunleavy, Patrick. 2010. "New Worlds in
Political Science". Political Studies. 58 (2): 240- 27Flinders, The Future of Political Science,
244. Ollman, Bertell. 2000. "What Is Political 223-224
Science? What Should It Be?" New Political
Science. 22 (4): 555-557. 28 White, Trade-offs, 335-337
25 Dunleavy, New Worlds in Political Science, 29David, Matthew. 2002. "Problems of
239 participation: the limits of action
26 Bond, The Scientification of the Study of research". International Journal of Social
Politics", 904-905 Research Methodology. 5 (1): 15-17.
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methods can remain the popular choice qualitative method presupposes the
for political science studies, but the second question, which deals with the
qualitative method must be kept alive. future of political science when
Not only does it form the origin of considering the discipline itself is
political science, but it also allows the founded on qualitative methods of
public to understand how quantities in analyzing governments. Contemporary
politics affect the qualities (Flinders political science, with its preference for
2013)30. the quantitative method, may as well
The Future of Political Science overtake traditional political science
The prevalence of quantitative and the qualitative method. This
research methods over qualitative transition from qualitative to
research methods in political science quantitative methods may only become
does not have to signal the end of worrisome if tomorrows political
political science in the traditional sense. scientists completely forego quality for
While the discipline may grow to become quantity.
acquainted with others, it does so along The qualitative method, though
with the rest of the world. Approaching inferior for its time-consuming
these changes in political science processes, must nonetheless be relied on
keeping the quantitative at the front but when possible. Quantitative and
not totally disregarding the qualitative qualitative methods of data gathering in
as a sort of evolution is the best way to political science may outpace one
ensure that political science continues to another periodically, but are ultimately
be an outwardly quantitative and co-dependent in helping the public
inwardly qualitative study of the nature understand standards of not only state
of politics and government (Flinders condition, but how politics eventually
2013)31. With that being said, the affects everything.
quantitative method must remain the
popular method, but more effort must be
made to ensure qualitative standards for
these quantitative reports.

At the end, this project decides on
two questions. First, whether
quantitative or qualitative methods of
measurement are better used in
determining state conditions.
Quantitative methods, in being able to
acquire data more conveniently, present
concrete figures, and be convertible for
use across other fields, have the
advantage. The prevalence of the modern
quantitative method over the traditional

30 Flinders, The Future of Political Science,

31 Ibid.