Using computational text analyses to understand the role of cultural categories in constitutional-drafting processes

Francisco OLIVOS, Sebastian ASCUI

Research output: Other Conference ContributionsPoster


A growing body of research in cognitive sciences, psychology, and cognitive sociology has discussed how cultural categories intervene in processes of lawmaking or policymaking (Hoff & Walsh, 2019; Nelken, 2020; Shiff, 2020; Steensland, 2017). Shared cultural models that we employ to make sense of the world shape the social construction of institutions (Chase, 2007). Therefore, in periods of institutional upheaval, culture plays a pivotal role. This relationship has been mostly qualitatively examined through the study of policy and lawmaking debates, with a focus on the state officials that directly engage in the debate or implementation of policies and laws (Shiff, 2020; Steensland, 2017). This study leverages novel computational methods to examine how cultural categories embodied in norms resonate with citizens, bearing their support.

Using text data from the online participatory components of the Chilean constitutional-drafting process, we gauge whether norms that operated as cultural bridges were more likely to yield public endorsements. Chile faced an unprecedented wave of protests in 2019 (Somma et al., 2020), and political parties resolved to hold a referendum to decide whether to draft a new political constitution which was rejected by the population by the same mechanism one year later, leaving the constitutional debate open at the moment of writing this article. One of the innovations of the first draft writing was its participatory mechanisms. Citizens and civic organizations proposed constitutional norms which citizens could sponsor. The convention of democratically elected representatives should discuss each norm surpassing the threshold of 15,000 endorsements. The text of these norms proposals and the received citizens’ endorsements enable us to test whether norms with overlapping cultural categories—i.e., cultural bridges (Bail, 2016)— were more likely to be supported by the public.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2023
EventThe 9th International Conference on Computational Social Science - University of Copenhaguen, Copenhaguen, Denmark
Duration: 17 Jul 202320 Jul 2023


ConferenceThe 9th International Conference on Computational Social Science
Abbreviated title9th IC2S2
Internet address


  • Computational text analysis
  • Constitutional Design
  • Cultural categories
  • Public support


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