U.S. versus Canadian political spin

I’ve gone back and done a little work analyzing the party leaders’ speeches in the Canadian federal election in 2006, comparing the language patterns to those of the current U.S. presidential contenders.

In the overall ranking of spin, 38 of the 50 Canadian speeches I’ve collected rank higher on spin than any of the U.S. speeches.

This probably doesn’t mean that Canadian politicians spin more than U.S. politicians, at least not directly. In general, the Canadian speeches have much shorter sentences and are shorter overall. This limits the opportunity to use exclusive words at all which, in turn, means that they can’t play much of a role in marking deception.

It may be that the Canadian electoral system, in which election campaigns are measured in weeks, rather than the gruelling years of American races, makes it easier for politicians to maintain a facade. It may also be that the Canadian media put less pressure on politicians.

It goes to show the importance of measuring spin (and deception) within a set of contextually appropriate texts. Failing to work out what the norms are in a particular domain can make a particular speech look particularly sincere or deceptive even when it is not.

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