Mark Blumenthal | April 27, 2007
Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race
Janet Harris, a friend and Pollster reader, sends an interesting bit of analysis she did on last night's MSNBC Democratic debate. Using the free site TagCrowd, she created a set of "tag clouds" that provides a visual depiction of the words used most often last night by each of the candidates.
For those not familiar with the term, you have probably seen tag clouds appearing on many web sites (and hopefully, very soon here on Pollster). They were apparently first implemented on the photo sharing site Flickr, and typically provide a visual representation of the most popular "tags" assigned to web pages. The type size of each word varies according to its frequency of usage. The larger the type size, the more often each candidate used that word.
Here are the clouds Janet created:
She also created a PDF version suitable for printing.
Now of course, this is a quick blog post, which probably raises as many questions for me as it answers. Each of the clouds consists of the 50 words used most often, omitting common words like "and," "of," "the," etc. I am not sure if the scale of the words is comparable across clouds -I suspect that Professor Franklin will feel strongly that they should be. Finally, for what it's worth, Janet also sends along this total word count for each candidate:
- 1,872 - Senator Obama
- 1,766 - Senator Clinton
- 1,518 - Senator Edwards
- 1,281 - Governor Richardson
- 1,180 - Representative Kucinich
- 961 - Senator Biden
- 912 - Senator Dodd
- 753 - Senator Gravel
A few quick observations, with an assist from Janet (who is the president of the media analysis firm, Upstream Analysis):
- Notice the more frequent use of wonkier language by Chris Dodd, particularly the use of "administration," "multinational," "stateless," etc.
- Now contrast that to John Edwards, whose answers tend to use everyday language and deliver a message loud and clear message: "America," "believe," "united."
- The one-issue emphasis of Kucinich and Gravel - "war" -- is obvious.
Obviously, this feature is a bit off-topic for a site devoted to polling methodology, but it does deal with the graphic analysis of political data. I can certainly see potential applications of this sort of graphic for those that conduct and transcribe focus groups and other "qualitative" analysis.
But enough wonkiness. Readers, what do you see in these clouds? Our comment section is wide open...