Posts Tagged 'canadian election'

Canadian Federal Election – 1 day to go

The results for the three English-speaking party leaders are shown below. I have not tried to track Duceppe because we don’t fully understand how to move the deception model across languages. I think there’s a fair amount of confidence that the same (types of words) are significant in other languages, but the details are difficult. In the case of French, the pronoun “on” sometimes plays the role of “I” and sometimes not, and the differences are hard to pick out, and might perhaps be especially significant as a distancing mechanism.

The Canadian federal party leaders have all tried to run presidential style campaigns (Vote the man, rather than the party, or the local member). But they can’t bring themselves to talk about themselves, so the speeches they all give are extremely abstract blue-skies policy speeches, with hardly an “I” to be seen. Relative to the U.S. election, all of the speeches would rank as high spin. This may be partly a perception (probably accurate IMHO) that Canadians are not ready for prime minister = president and so the leaders are trying to be the face of their party, but not the single leading figure. This middle-ground approach seems to be a bit clunky, and produces some odd speeches. Can you imagine an American politician at any level giving a speech titled “New Support for Apprentices”?

Here is the spin ranking for the speeches available up to today:

Spin rankings over the entire election campaign

Spin rankings over the entire election campaign

The pattern has been reasonable consistent over the campaign. Stephen Harper’s (blue) speeches tend to be high-spin; Stephane Dion’s (red) speeches are more moderate in spin, but much more variable; and Jack Layton’s speeches (such as they are) (magenta) are relatively low spin. This would indicate that Stephen Harper will tend to do better than the other two, but these speeches play such a small role in the campaign that not much should be read into this prediction.

Canadian election — some results

Although the party leaders are trying to run a presidential election (vote for Harper, Dion, Layton, Duceppe rather than vote for a party or (heaven forbid) a local member), they are not doing a very good job of presenting themselves as people. The speeches that are available online are little more than press releases read out loud. The contrast with the speeches of the U.S. contenders couldn’t be more stark.

However, here are the spin values for the available speeches, 12 from Harper in blue, 3 from Dion in red, and one from Layton in magenta.

Party leaders spin to Sep 29

Party leaders spin to Sep 29

Speech 13 from Dion has such (apparently) low spin on the strength of a few paragraphs near then end in which he becomes slightly personal. The Harper speeches are all blue-skies policy speeches. He does not tend to take credit personally, but rather attributes the policies to the government or to the Conservative Party.

High-spin speeches are usually a good strategy, so Harper is probably doing better than the other two leaders. But this kind of generality seems not to attract anyone very strongly. Maybe that’s all Harper is going for — a safe pair of hands argument. But you can’t help but think that Bill Clinton could give all three of them pointers.

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.