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Semi-Structured Expert Interviews in Cross-National Research: Studying Party Patronage in Contemporary Democracies

By: & Published: 2019 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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This case study is based on two research projects carried out between 2006 and 2012, the principal aim of which was to shed light on the performance of political parties in contemporary democracies by focusing on one of the neglected aspects of their organizational life: party patronage. Patronage, understood as party political appointments of personnel in state institutions, is a key resource in the hands of the parties to build and maintain their organizations. We started the project(s) by developing a research method that would help us to systematically map and empirically document patterns of party patronage on a comparative basis. This method is principally based on primary data collected through face-to-face semi-structured interviews with country experts, carried out at the level of different policy areas and types of institutions within each investigated state and then aggregated to the state level. In conducting this research, we had to solve the problems of expert selection, of potential bias of interviews, and of high political sensitivity of the topic. As large part of the project involved cooperation with a team of collaborators, we also had to solve the problems of coordination and calibration of our research.

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