Top R packages for downloading political science and economics datasets

  1. WDI
  2. peacesciencer
  3. eurostat
  4. vdem
  5. democracyData
  6. icpsrdata
  7. Quandl
  8. essurvey
  9. manifestoR
  10. unvotes
  11. gravity

1. WDI

The World Development Indicators (WDI) package by Vincent Arel-Bundock provides access to a database of hundreds of economic development indicators from the World Bank.

Examples of variables include population, GDP, education, health, and poverty, school attendance

Reference: Arel-Bundock, V. (2017). WDI: World Development Indicators (R Package Version 2.7.1).

2. peacesciencer

This package by Steve Miller helps you download data related to peace and conflict studies, including the Correlates of War project.

Examples of variables include Alliance Treaty Obligations and Provisions (ATOP), Thompson and Dreyer’s (2012) strategic rivalry data, fractionalization/polarization estimates from the Composition of Religious and Ethnic Groups (CREG) Project, and Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) data on civil and inter-state conflicts.

Data can come in either country-year, event-level dyadic-level.

Reference: Hewitt, J. J. (2020). peacesciencer: Tools for Peace Scientists (R Package Version 0.2.2).

3. eurostat

eurostat provides access to a wide range of statistics and data on the European Union and its member states, covering topics such as population, economics, society, and the environment.

Examples of variables include employment, inflation, education, crime, and air pollution. The package was authored by Leo Lahti.

Reference: eurostat (2018). eurostat: Eurostat Open Data (R Package Version 3.6.0), CRAN PDF retrieved at

4. vdem

The Varieties of Democracy package by Staffan I. Lindberg et al. provides data on a range of indicators related to democracy and governance in countries around the world, including measures of electoral democracy, civil liberties, and human rights.

Examples of variables include freedom of speech, rule of law, corruption, government transparency, and voter turnout.

Reference: Lindberg, S. I., & Stepanova, N. (2020). vdem: Varieties of Democracy Project (R Package Version 1.6).

5. democracyData

This package by Xavier Marquez: provides data on a range of variables related to democracy, including elections, political parties, and civil liberties.

Examples of variables include regime type, democracy scores (Freedom House, PolityIV etc,  Geddes, Wright, and Frantz’ autocratic regimes dataset, the Lexical Index of Electoral Democracy, the DD/ACLP/PACL/CGV dataset), axxording to the Github page

6. icpsrdata

This package by Frederick Solt provides a simple way to download and import data from the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) archive into R. This is for easy replication and sharing of data. The package includes datasets from different fields of study, including sociology, political science, and economics.

Reference: Solt, F. (2020). icpsrdata: Reproducible Data Retrieval from the ICPSR Archive (R Package Version 0.5.0).

7. Quandl

This R package by Quandl provides an interface to access financial and economic data from over 20 different sources. Examples of variables include stock prices, futures, options, and macroeconomic indicators. The package includes functions to easily download data directly into R and perform tasks such as plotting, transforming, and aggregating data. Additional functions for managing and exploring data, such as search tools and data caching features, are also available.

Here are five examples of variables in the Quandl package:

  • “AAPL” (Apple Inc. stock price)
  • “CHRIS/CME_CL1” (Crude Oil Futures)
  • “BCHAIN/MKPRU” (Bitcoin Market Price)
  • “USTREASURY/YIELD” (US Treasury Yield Curve Rates)

Reference: Quandl. (2021). Quandl: A library of economic and financial data. Retrieved from

8. essurvey

The essurvey package is an R package that provides access to data from the European Social Survey (ESS), which is a large-scale survey that collects data on attitudes, values, and behavior across Europe. The package includes functions to easily download, read, and analyze data from the ESS, and also includes documentation and sample code to help users get started.

Examples of variables in the ESS dataset include political interest, trust in political institutions, social class, education level, and income. The package was authored by David Winter and includes a variety of useful functions for working with ESS data.

Reference: Winter, D. (2021). essurvey: Download Data from the European Social Survey on the Fly. R package version 3.4.4. Retrieved from

9. manifestoR

manifestoR is an R package that provides access to data from the Comparative Manifesto Project (CMP), which is a cross-national research project that analyzes political party manifestos. The package allows users to easily download and analyze data from the CMP, including party positions on various policy issues and the salience of those issues across time and space.

Examples of variables in the CMP dataset include party positions on taxation, immigration, the environment, healthcare, and education. The package was authored by Jörg Matthes, Marcelo Jenny, and Carsten Schwemmer.

Reference: Matthes, J., Jenny, M., & Schwemmer, C. (2018). manifestoR: Access and Process Data and Documents of the Manifesto Project. R package version 1.2.1. Retrieved from

10. unvotes

The unvotes data package provides historical voting data of the United Nations General Assembly, including votes for each country in each roll call, as well as descriptions and topic classifications for each vote.

The classifications included in the dataset cover a wide range of issues, including human rights, disarmament, decolonization, and Middle East-related issues.

The package was created by David Robinson and Nicholas Goguen-Compagnoni and is available on the Comprehensive R Archive Network (CRAN) at

11. gravity

The gravity package in R, created by Anna-Lena Woelwer, provides a set of functions for estimating gravity models, which are used to analyze bilateral trade flows between countries. The package includes the gravity_data dataset, which contains information on trade flows between pairs of countries.

Examples of variables that may affect trade in the dataset are GDP, distance, and the presence of regional trade agreements, contiguity, common official language, and common currency.

iso_o: ISO-Code of country of origin
iso_d: ISO-Code of country of destination
distw: weighted distance
gdp_o: GDP of country of origin
gdp_d: GDP of country of destination
rta: regional trade agreement
flow: trade flow
contig: contiguity
comlang_off: common official language
comcur: common currency

The package PDF CRAN is available at


Scraping and wrangling UN peacekeeping data with tidyr package in R

Packages we will need:


For this blog post, we will look at UN peacekeeping missions and compare across regions.

Despite the criticisms about some operations, the empirical record for UN peacekeeping records has been robust in the academic literature

“In short, peacekeeping intervenes in the most difficult
cases, dramatically increases the chances that peace will
last, and does so by altering the incentives of the peacekept,
by alleviating their fear and mistrust of each other, by
preventing and controlling accidents and misbehavior by
hard-line factions, and by encouraging political inclusion”
(Goldstone, 2008: 178).

The data on the current and previous PKOs (peacekeeping operations) will come from the Wikipedia page. But the variables do not really lend themselves to analysis as they are.

Amy Coney Barrett Snl GIF by Saturday Night Live - Find & Share on GIPHY

Once we have the url, we scrape all the tables on the Wikipedia page in a few lines

pko_members <- read_html("")
pko_tables <- pko_members %>% html_table(header = TRUE, fill = TRUE)

Click here to read more about the rvest package for scraping data from websites.

pko_complete_africa <- pko_tables[[1]]
pko_complete_americas <- pko_tables[[2]]
pko_complete_asia <- pko_tables[[3]]
pko_complete_europe <- pko_tables[[4]]
pko_complete_mena <- pko_tables[[5]]

And then we bind them together! It’s very handy that they all have the same variable names in each table.

rbind(pko_complete_africa, pko_complete_americas, pko_complete_asia, pko_complete_europe, pko_complete_mena) -> pko_complete

Next, we will add a variable to indicate that all the tables of these missions are completed.

pko_complete %<>% 
  mutate(complete = ifelse(!$Location), "Complete", "Current"))

We do the same with the current missions that are ongoing:

pko_current_africa <- pko_tables[[6]]
pko_current_asia <- pko_tables[[7]]
pko_current_europe <- pko_tables[[8]]
pko_current_mena <- pko_tables[[9]]

rbind(pko_current_europe, pko_current_mena, pko_current_asia, pko_current_africa) -> pko_current

pko_current %<>% 
  mutate(complete = ifelse(!$Location), "Current", "Complete"))

We then bind the completed and current mission data.frames

rbind(pko_complete, pko_current) -> pko

Then we clean the variable names with the function from the janitor package.

pko_df <-  pko %>% 

Next we’ll want to create some new variables.

We can make a new row for each country that is receiving a peacekeeping mission. We can paste all the countries together and then use the separate function from the tidyr package to create new variables.

 pko_df %>%
  group_by(conflict) %>%
  mutate(location = paste(location, collapse = ', ')) %>% 
  separate(location,  into = c("country_1", "country_2", "country_3", "country_4", "country_5"), sep = ", ")  %>% 
  ungroup() %>% 
  distinct(conflict, .keep_all = TRUE) %>% 

Next we can create a new variable that only keeps the acroynm for the operation name. I took these regex codes from the following stack overflow link

pko_df %<>% 
  mutate(acronym = str_extract_all(name_of_operation, "\\([^()]+\\)")) %>% 
  mutate(acronym = substring(acronym, 2, nchar(acronym)-1)) %>% 
  separate(dates_of_operation, c("start_date", "end_date"), "–")

I will fill in the end data for the current missions that are still ongoing in 2022

pko_df %<>% 
  mutate(end_date = ifelse(complete == "Current", 2022, end_date)) 

And next we can calculate the duration for each operation

pko_df %<>% 
  mutate(end_date = as.integer(end_date)) %>% 
  mutate(start_date = as.integer(start_date)) %>% 
  mutate(duration = ifelse(!, end_date - start_date, 1)) 

I want to compare regions and graph out the different operations around the world.

We can download region data with democracyData package (best package ever!)

Snl Season 47 GIF by Saturday Night Live - Find & Share on GIPHY
pacl <- redownload_pacl()

pacl %>% 
  select(cown = pacl_cowcode,
        un_region_name, un_continent_name) %>% 
  distinct(cown, .keep_all = TRUE) -> pacl_region

We join the datasets together with the inner_join() and add Correlates of War country codes.

pko_df %<>% 
  mutate(cown = countrycode(country_1, "", "cown")) %>%   mutate(cown = ifelse(country_1 == "Western Sahara", 605, 
                       ifelse(country_1 == "Serbia", 345, cown))) %>% 
  inner_join(pacl_region, by = "cown")

Now we can start graphing our duration data:

pko_df %>% 
  ggplot(mapping = aes(x = forcats::fct_reorder(un_region_name, duration), 
                       y = duration, 
                       fill = un_region_name)) +
  geom_boxplot(alpha = 0.4) +
  geom_jitter(aes(color = un_region_name),
              size = 6, alpha = 0.8, width = 0.15) +
  coord_flip() + 
  bbplot::bbc_style() + ggtitle("Duration of Peacekeeping Missions")

We can see that Asian and “Western Asian” – i.e. Middle East – countries have the longest peacekeeping missions in terns of years.

pko_countries %>% 
  filter(un_continent_name == "Asia") %>%
  unite("country_names", country_1:country_5, remove = TRUE,  na.rm = TRUE, sep = ", ") %>% 
  arrange(desc(duration)) %>% 
Start End Duration Region Country
1949 2022 73 Southern Asia India, Pakistan
1964 2022 58 Western Asia Cyprus, Northern Cyprus
1974 2022 48 Western Asia Israel, Syria, Lebanon
1978 2022 44 Western Asia Lebanon
1993 2009 16 Western Asia Georgia
1991 2003 12 Western Asia Iraq, Kuwait
1994 2000 6 Central Asia Tajikistan
2006 2012 6 South-Eastern Asia East Timor
1988 1991 3 Southern Asia Iran, Iraq
1988 1990 2 Southern Asia Afghanistan, Pakistan
1965 1966 1 Southern Asia Pakistan, India
1991 1992 1 South-Eastern Asia Cambodia, Cambodia
1999 NA 1 South-Eastern Asia East Timor, Indonesia, East Timor, Indonesia, East Timor
1958 NA 1 Western Asia Lebanon
1963 1964 1 Western Asia North Yemen
2012 NA 1 Western Asia Syria

Next we can compare the decades

pko_countries %<>% 
  mutate(decade = substr(start_date, 1, 3)) %>% 
  mutate(decade = paste0(decade, "0s")) 

And graph it out:

pko_countries %>% 
  ggplot(mapping = aes(x = decade, 
                       y = duration, 
                       fill = decade)) +
  geom_boxplot(alpha = 0.4) +
  geom_jitter(aes(color = decade),
              size = 6, alpha = 0.8, width = 0.15) +
   coord_flip() + 
  geom_curve(aes(x = "1950s", y = 60, xend = "1940s", yend = 72),
  arrow = arrow(length = unit(0.1, "inch")), size = 0.8, color = "black",
   curvature = -0.4) +
  annotate("text", label = "First Mission to Kashmir",
           x = "1950s", y = 49, size = 8, color = "black") +
  geom_curve(aes(x = "1990s", y = 46, xend = "1990s", yend = 32),
             arrow = arrow(length = unit(0.1, "inch")), size = 0.8, color = "black",curvature = 0.3) +
  annotate("text", label = "Most Missions after the Cold War",
           x = "1990s", y = 60, size = 8, color = "black") +

  bbplot::bbc_style() + ggtitle("Duration of Peacekeeping Missions")

Following the end of the Cold War, there were renewed calls for the UN to become the agency for achieving world peace, and the agency’s peacekeeping dramatically increased, authorizing more missions between 1991 and 1994 than in the previous 45 years combined.

We can use a waffle plot to see which decade had the most operation missions. Waffle plots are often seen as more clear than pie charts.

Click here to read more about waffle charts in R

To get the data ready for a waffle chart, we just need to count the number of peacekeeping missions (i.e. the number of rows) in each decade. Then we fill the groups (i.e. decade) and enter the n variable we created as the value.

pko_countries %>% 
  group_by(decade) %>% 
  count() %>%  
  ggplot(aes(fill = decade, values = n)) + 
  waffle::geom_waffle(color = "white", size= 3, n_rows = 8) +
  scale_x_discrete(expand=c(0,0)) +
  scale_y_discrete(expand=c(0,0)) +
  coord_equal() +
  labs(title = "Number of Peacekeeper Missions") + bbplot::bbc_style() 
Cecily Strong Snl GIF by Saturday Night Live - Find & Share on GIPHY

If we want to add more information, we can go to the UN Peacekeeping website and download more data on peacekeeping troops and operations.

We can graph the number of peacekeepers per country

Click here to learn more about adding flags to graphs!

le_palette <- c("#5f0f40", "#9a031e", "#94d2bd", "#e36414", "#0f4c5c")

pkt %>%
  mutate(contributing_country = ifelse(contributing_country == "United Republic of Tanzania", "Tanzania",ifelse(contributing_country == "Côte d’Ivoire", "Cote d'Ivoire", contributing_country))) %>% 
  mutate(iso2 = tolower(countrycode::countrycode(contributing_country, "", "iso2c"))) %>% 
  mutate(cown = countrycode::countrycode(contributing_country, "", "cown")) %>% 
  inner_join(pacl_region, by = "cown") %>% 
  mutate(un_region_name = case_when(grepl("Africa", un_region_name) ~ "Africa",grepl("Eastern Asia", un_region_name) ~ "South-East Asia",
 un_region_name == "Western Africa" ~ "Middle East",TRUE ~ as.character(un_region_name))) %>% 
  filter(total_uniformed_personnel > 700) %>% 
  ggplot(aes(x = reorder(contributing_country, total_uniformed_personnel),
             y = total_uniformed_personnel)) + 
  geom_bar(stat = "identity", width = 0.7, aes(fill = un_region_name), color = "white") +
  coord_flip() +
  ggflags::geom_flag(aes(x = contributing_country, y = -1, country = iso2), size = 8) +
  # geom_text(aes(label= values), position = position_dodge(width = 0.9), hjust = -0.5, size = 5, color = "#000500") + 
  scale_fill_manual(values = le_palette) +
  labs(title = "Total troops serving as peacekeepers",
       subtitle = ("Across countries"),
       caption = "         Source: UN ") +
  xlab("") + 
  ylab("") + bbplot::bbc_style()

We can see that Bangladesh, Nepal and India have the most peacekeeper troops!