Update on spin in presidential elections

I was away for three weeks, and it’s taken me three weeks to catch up and be able to post again (although sporadically for a while).

I’ve worked through the candidate speeches since the beginning of the year. There’s  a lot to look at: what was the effect of Clinto dropping out of the race, and the transition to general-election mode?

Here’s the short version: Obama continues to use high levels of spin, after a brief period (between the time he had the primary won and the Pastor Wright affair) when his levels of spin were reduced. McCain has increased his level of spin so that it’s little different from that of Obama — his straight talk levels dropped off a cliff once Obama became the presumptive nominee.

Here’s the overall plot of spin:

Spin levels to July 16th

Spin levels to July 16th

The red dots are McCain speeches; the blue dots, Clinton speeches; and the blue stars, Obama speeches. The speeches for each candidate are numbered in time order: 1-32 Clinton, 33-77 McCain, 78-128 Obama. Note that Clinton now looks like the straight-talking candidate, because the calculation of spin is done relative to all of the speeches over the past 7 months.

Here are the spin scores for each candidate individually, in time order:

Clinton Jan 2008 to her withdrawal

Clinton Jan 2008 to her withdrawal

McCain Jan 2008 to July 16

McCain Jan 2008 to July 16

Obama Jan 2008 to July 16th

Obama Jan 2008 to July 16th

The change in McCain’s levels of straight talking are by far the most noticeable. Obama has had a few flashes of straight talk, but he seems most comfortable using moderate levels of spin.

Of course, spin works and that is why both candidates are using it. But neither can really claim that their campaign is not politics as usual.

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