Posts Tagged 'huckabee'

Results from second Republican debate

Regular readers will know that, especially in a crowded marketplace, politicians try to stand out and attract votes by presenting themselves in the best possible light that they can. This is a form of deception, and carries the word-use signals associated with deception, so it can be measured using some straightforward linguistic analysis.

Generally speaking, the candidate who achieves the highest level of this persona deception wins, so candidates try as hard as they can. There are, however, a number of countervailing forces. First, different candidates have quite different levels of ability to put on this kind of persona (Bill Clinton excelled at it). Second, it seems to be quite exhausting, so that candidates have trouble maintaining it from day to day. Third, the difficulty depends on the magnitude of the difference between the previous role and the new one that is the target of a campaign: if a vice-president runs for president, he is necessarily lumbered with the persona that’s been on view in the previous job; if not, it’s easier to present a new persona and make it seem compelling (e.g. Obama in 2008). Outsiders therefore have a greater opportunity to re-invent themselves. Fourth, it depends on the content of what is said: a speech that’s about pie in the sky can easily present a new persona, while one that talks about a candidate’s track record cannot, because it drags the previous persona into at least the candidate’s mind.

Some kinds of preparation can help to improve the persona being presented — a good actor has to be able to do this. But politicians aren’t usually actors manqué so the levels of persona deception that they achieve from day to day emerge from their subconscious and so provide fine-grained insights into how they’re perceiving themselves.

The results from the second round of debates are shown in the figure:

deceptdocs

The red and green points represent artificial debate participants who use all of the words of the deception model at high frequency and low frequency respectively.

Most of the candidates fall into the band between these two extremes, with Rand Paul with the lowest level of persona deception (which is what you might expect). The highest levels of deception are Christie and Fiorina, who had obviously prepped extensively and were regarded as having done well; and Jindal, who is roughly at the same level, but via completely different word use.

Comparing these to the results from the first round of debates, there are two obvious changes: Trump has moved from being at the low end of the spectrum to being in the upper-middle; and Carson has moved from having very different language patterns from all of the other candidates to being quite similar to most of them. This suggests that both of them are learning to be better politicians (or being sucked into the political machine, depending on your point of view).

The candidates in the early debate have clustered together on the left hand side of the figure, showing that there was a different dynamic in the two different debates. This is an interesting datum about the strength of verbal mimicry.

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Republican candidates’ debate: persona deception results

Here are results from the first Republican debate, combining the early and prime-time material into a single corpus.

There’s more detail about the theory in the previous post, but the basic story is: an election campaign is a socially sanctioned exercise in deception; factual deception is completely discounted and so doesn’t matter, but the interesting question is the deception required of each candidate to present themselves as better than they really are; and the candidate who can implement this kind of deception best tends to be the winner. Note that, although deception often has negative connotations, there are many situations where it is considered appropriate, allowed, or condoned: negotiation, dating, selling and marketing — and campaigns are just a different kind of marketing. Sometimes this is called, in the political context, “spin” but it’s really more subtle than that.

The basic plot show the variation in level of deception, aggregated over all of the turns by each candidate during the debate. The line is the deception axis; the further towards the red end, the stronger the deception. Other variation is caused by variations in the use of different words of the model — different styles.

deceptdocs

These results aren’t terribly surprising. Both Fiorina and Huckabee have broad media experience and so are presumably good at presenting a facade appropriate to many different occasions (and no wonder Fiorina is widely regarded as having “won” the early debate). Trump has low levels of deception — that’s partly because he doesn’t bother with a facade, and partly because the more well-known a person is, the harder it is to successfully present a different facade.

Note, again unsurprisingly, that Carson, while in the middle of the pack on the deception axis, has quite different language patterns from any of the others. That’s partly opportunity — he wasn’t asked the same kind of questions — but partly not being a professional politician.

deceptdocszoomThis figure zooms in to show the structure of the pack in the centre. There isn’t a lot of difference, which reinforces the takeaway that these debates didn’t make a lot of different, positively or negatively, for most of the candidate.

The contributions of language to the ranking can be looked at by drilling down into this table:

wordpatternThe rows are candidates in alphabetical order (Fiorina 5, Huckabee 8, Perry 13, Trump 15), the columns are 42 of the words of the deception model that were actually used in decreasing order of overall frequency, and the blocks are darker in colour when a word used by a candidate makes a greater contribution to the model. The top words were: I, but,  going,  my,  me, or, go, take, look, lead, run, rather, without, move, and hate. So Huckabee’s high score comes primarily from low use of first-person singular pronouns, while Fiorina’s comes from heavier use of lower-ranked words that most others didn’t use. There are qualitative similarities between Fiorina’s language and Carson’s (row 2).

In previous presidential election campaigns, the candidate who managed to present the best facade in the strongest way was the winner.

A separate question is: what kind of facade should a candidate choose? We have empirical results about that too. A winning persona is characterised by: ignoring policy issues completely, ruthlessly eliminating all negative language, using plenty of positive language, and ignoring the competing candidates. Although, at one level, this seems obvious, no candidate and no campaign can bring themselves to do it until their second presidential campaign. But not only does it predict the winner, the margin of victory is also predictable from it as well.

Comparing the Democratic and Republican convention spin

Just to round out the picture, here’s data comparing the levels of spin across the speeches from both conventions.

Spin levels in both conventions

Spin levels in both conventions

As usual, high spin is indicated by the red end of the line. Here are the spin scores for all of the speeches analyzed (positive numbers are high spin):

1. Bush 0.40
2. Thompson 1.71
3. Lieberman -0.73
4. Romney 4.36
5. Huckabee -1.8
6. Giuliani 2.97
7. Palin -0.62
8. McCain -7.38
9. M. Obama -1.24
10. Hillary Clinton 2.43
11. Bill Clinton 0.99
12. Biden -1.35
13. Obama 0.31

The relative positions don’t change much when compared to the other party. Within each party, there’s the same division into high- and low-spin speakers. McCain’s overall spin is still so low that it makes all of the other politicians look as if they are clustered quite close together, but there are actually quite large differences between them.

Note the cluster of Bush, Palin, Bill Clinton, and Biden who have very similar speech patterns. Perhaps this is the sign of a successful politician?

RNC convention spin summary

McCain’s speech last night had extremely low spin, mostly because of the very high rate of first-person singular pronoun use, almost twice the rate of Bush and Huckabee. It’s so large that it almost washes out the differences in the rates of use of other word classes.

Here’s the plot:

RNC speech spin

RNC speech spin

The speeches are in chronological order: 1 – Bush, 2-Thompson, 3-Lieberman, 4-Romney, 5-Huckabee, 6-Giuliani, 7-Palin, 8-McCain.

Note the alternating pattern of high and low spin, which is also characteristic of speeches on the campaign trail. We suspect that this is the result of (probably subconscious) awareness of spin that feeds into the scheduling.

The actual spin scores (positive means high spin are)

Bush -0.92
Thompson 4.02
Lieberman -0.95
Romney 2.43
Huckabee -1.88
Giuliani 3.72
Palin 1.17
McCain -7.58 (!!)

Spin in the RNC convention speeches

I’ll do a complete analysis after McCain’s speech tonight, but so far:

High spin: Thompson, Romney, Giuliani — all about the same level of spin but for different reasons.

Low spin: Bush, Lieberman, Huckabee — all about the same

Palin’s level of spin is almost exactly in between these two groups.

Of course, adding McCain’s speech to the mix may change the absolute positions of these speeches, as Obama’s did to the Clintons’ speeches at the DNC (see last week’s posts).

I’ll do the combined analysis too, to get a sense of how different the two parties are in their lanaguage use — stay tuned.