26 September 2008

Barack Obama vs. John McCain vs. Jim Lehrer

Tonight, I watched the first presidential candidates' debate at "Ole Miss" (University of Mississipi, Oxford). I thought I'd do the same thing I did for the convention speeches with the specific words uttered by Obama, McCain and—why not?—moderator Lehrer. I looked how many words they used. Also, how many sentences and characters (excl. spaces) did the individual debate parts have? I summarized these three measures in a bubble graph:

Lehrer obviously had much less to say than Obama and McCain who ended up with rather similar measures. I guess you could say that McCain used fewer but longer words in shorter sentences than Obama...

Then, using Wordle, I made a "word cloud" each of the debate contributions.

Barack Obama

John McCain

Jim Lehrer

As expected, because Lehrer was the moderator, words such as "senator," both their last names, "minutes" and "question" were prominent. Obama's most frequently used words were "going" (action sentences?), "think" (not impulsive, rash... like McCain?), "make" (constructive, tangible?) and "now" (no living in the past?). McCain's commonest words were "senator" and "know": stressing his experience perhaps? Then came "Obama" (more attacks on the person?) followed by "United States" (patriotism?), "want" (forcefulness?) and "spending" (Republican hot issue of cutting spending). These were just my initial associations of course, I wonder what a linguist would think of these patterns.

Update 10-5-08: As I explain in this new post, Wordle has a lot more settings than I was aware of. Here are the improved, "corrected" word clouds.

Barack Obama (improved)

John McCain (improved)

Jim Lehrer (improved)

1 comment:

  1. This is absolutely fascinating, especially the analysis of the common words (i.e. "now" vs. "want"). Thanks for doing those word clouds!

    (And by the way, I hope you won't mind if I borrow that inspiring Dr. King quote when I next update my blog's margins--it's so good, and it's a perfect follow-up to the current quote from Harold Pinter that I have had embedded there from the early days of my blog.)

    Deborah aka litbrit