Lexical Analysis of 2012 Presidential Debates — Obama vs Romney Martin Krzywinski projects contact

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Lexical Analysis of Barack Obama vs Mitt Romney (2nd debate)

Introduction

Word Statistics

Debate Word Count

Summary Word Count

The summary word count reports the total number of words and the number of unique, non-stop words used by each candidate. Word number is expressed as both absolute and relative values.

Table 1a
all words
Number of all words and unique words used by each speaker.
set word count
Barack Obama
7,592 1,308
48.5% 17.2%
62841308
Mitt Romney
8,062 1,233
51.5% 15.3%
68291233
total
15,654 1,894
100.0% 12.1%
137601894

Fields with (e.g. 155) link to data files and Wordles. Hover over the field to show these links.

Table 1b
exclusive and shared words
Words exclusive to speaker (e.g. speaker A but not speaker B) and shared by speakers (speaker A and B).
set word count
Barack Obama
1,006 661
13.3% 65.7%
345661
Mitt Romney
978 586
12.1% 59.9%
392586
both candidates
13,670 647
87.3% 4.7%
13023647

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Table 1
commentary
Table 1
legend
a c
b d
3010

a :: word count

b :: word count, as fraction in total in debate

c :: unique words in (a)

d :: unique words in (a), as fraction in (a) bar :: proportion of (a-c):c

Stop Word Contribution

In the table below, the candidates' delivery is partitioned into stop and non-stop words. Stop words (full list) are frequently-used bridging words (e.g. pronouns and conjunctions) whose meaning depends entirely on context. The fraction of words that are stop words is one measure of the complexity of speech.

Table 2a
non-stop words
Counts of stop and non-stop words.
speaker all stop non-stop
Barack Obama
7,592 1,308
100.0% 17.2%
62841308
4,243 146
55.9% 3.4%
4097146
3,349 1,162
44.1% 34.7%
21871162
Mitt Romney
8,062 1,233
100.0% 15.3%
68291233
4,526 144
56.1% 3.2%
4382144
3,536 1,089
43.9% 30.8%
24471089
total
15,654 1,894
100.0% 12.1%
137601894
8,769 158
56.0% 1.8%
8611158
6,885 1,736
44.0% 25.2%
51491736

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Table 2b
exclusive and shared non-stop words
Non-stop words exclusive to speaker (e.g. speaker A but not speaker B) and shared by speakers (speaker A and B).
set word count
Barack Obama
979 647
29.2% 66.1%
332647
Mitt Romney
952 574
26.9% 60.3%
378574
both candidates
4,954 515
72.0% 10.4%
4439515

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Table 2
commentary
Table 2
legend
a c
b d
3010

a :: total number of words, for a given category (all, stop, non-stop)

b :: (a) relative to words in the debate if category=all, otherwise relative to words by the candidate

c :: number of unique words with set (a)

d :: (c) relative to (a)

bar :: proportion of (a-c):c

All further word use statistics represent content that has been filtered for stop words.

Word frequency

The word frequency table summarizes the frequency with which words were used. I show the average word frequency and the weighted cumulative frequencies at 50 and 90 percentile. The average word frequency indicates how many times, on average, a word is used. For a given fraction of the entire delivery, the weighted cumulative frequency indicates the largest word frequency within this fraction (details about weighted cumulative distribution).

Table 3a
word use frequency
Average and 50%/90% percentile word frequencies.
speaker word frequency
all stop non-stop
Barack Obama
5.8 23 271
5.80423.000271.000
29.1 84 275
29.06284.000275.000
2.9 5 32
2.8825.00032.000
Mitt Romney
6.5 25 263
6.53925.000263.000
31.4 92 310
31.43192.000310.000
3.2 6 30
3.2476.00030.000
total
8.3 47 512
8.26547.000512.000
55.5 167 596
55.500167.000596.000
4.0 9 53
3.9669.00053.000

Fields with (e.g. 155) link to data files and Wordles. Hover over the field to show these links.

Table 3b
exclusive and shared non-stop word use frequency
Average and 50%/90% cumulative percentile word frequencies. Non-stop words exclusive to speaker (e.g. speaker A but not speaker B) and shared by speakers (speaker A and B).
set word frequency
Barack Obama
1.51 2 5
1.5132.0005.000
Mitt Romney
1.66 2 6
1.6592.0006.000
total
3.97 9 53
3.9669.00053.000

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Table 3
commentary
Table 3
legend
a b c
51025

a :: average word frequency

b :: largest word frequency in 50% of content

c :: largest word frequency in 90% of content

bar :: proportion of a:b:c

Sentence Size

Table 4
sentence size
Number of sentences spoken by each speaker and sentence word count statistics. Number of words in a sentence is shown by average and 50%/90% cumulative values for all, stop and non-stop words.
speaker number of sentences sentence size
all stop non-stop
Barack Obama
500
500
15.2 22 45
15.18422.00045.000
8.8 13 25
8.82113.00025.000
6.8 10 20
6.82110.00020.000
Mitt Romney
586
586
13.8 19 40
13.75819.00040.000
7.9 11 24
7.94011.00024.000
6.2 8 18
6.1608.00018.000
total
1,086
1086
16.4 21 43
16.41421.00043.000
10.3 13 25
10.34313.00025.000
8.5 10 20
8.46510.00020.000

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Table 4
commentary
Table 4
legend
a b c
51025

a :: average sentence size

b :: largest sentence size for 50% of content

c :: largest sentence size for 90% of content

bar :: proportion of a:b:c

Part of Speech Analysis

In this section, word frequency is broken down by their part of speech (POS). The four POS groups examined are nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. Conjunctions and prepositions are not considered. The first category (n+v+adj+adv) is composed of all four POS groups.

Part of Speech Count

Table 5
part of speech count
Count of words categorized by part of speech (POS).
part of speech
n+v+adj+adv nouns (n) verbs (v) adjectives (adj) adverbs (adv)
Barack Obama
3,057 1,100
40.3% 36.0%
9065855013603042549750
1,491 585
48.8% 39.2%
906585
861 360
28.2% 41.8%
501360
558 254
18.3% 45.5%
304254
147 50
4.8% 34.0%
9750
Mitt Romney
3,188 1,039
39.5% 32.6%
10015645513313252639459
1,565 564
49.1% 36.0%
1001564
882 331
27.7% 37.5%
551331
588 263
18.4% 44.7%
325263
153 59
4.8% 38.6%
9459
total
6,245 1,655
39.9% 26.5%
2155901119554871942721684
3,056 901
48.9% 29.5%
2155901
1,743 548
27.9% 31.4%
1195548
1,146 427
18.4% 37.3%
719427
300 84
4.8% 28.0%
21684

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Table 5
commentary
Table 5
legend
a c
b d
1535

a :: total number of words for a given POS (all, noun, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun)

b :: (a) relative to all words by candidate

c :: unique words in (a)

d :: (c) relative to (a)

bar :: proportion of (a-c):c

Part of Speech Frequency

Table 5
part of speech frequency
Frequency of words categorized by part of speech (POS).
part of speech frequency
n+v+adj+adv nouns (n) verbs (v) adjectives (adj) adverbs (adv)
Barack Obama
2.78 5 28
2.7795.00028.000
2.55 4 24
2.5494.00024.000
2.39 4 34
2.3924.00034.000
2.20 3 16
2.1973.00016.000
2.94 7 32
2.9407.00032.000
Mitt Romney
3.07 6 24
3.0686.00024.000
2.77 5 30
2.7755.00030.000
2.67 5 26
2.6655.00026.000
2.24 3 16
2.2363.00016.000
2.59 3 21
2.5933.00021.000
total
3.77 9 45
3.7739.00045.000
3.39 8 45
3.3928.00045.000
3.18 6 42
3.1816.00042.000
2.68 5 24
2.6845.00024.000
3.57 6 53
3.5716.00053.000

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Table 5
commentary
Table 5
legend
a b c
51025

a :: average word frequency

b :: largest word frequency in 50% of content

c :: largest word frequency in 90% of content

bar :: proportion of a:b:c

Part of Speech Pairing

Through word pairing, I extract concepts from the text. The number of unique word pairs is a function of sentence length and is one of the measures of complexity.

Table 6a
part of speech pairing — Barack Obama
Word pairs (total and unique) categorized by part of speech (POS)
part of speech pairings - Barack Obama
noun verb adjective adverb
noun
3,667 3,067
  83.6%
6003067
verb
4,297 3,750
  87.3%
5473750
1,090 966
  88.6%
124966
adjective
2,287 1,955
  85.5%
3321955
1,318 1,102
  83.6%
2161102
386 330
  85.5%
56330
adverb
716 609
  85.1%
107609
389 346
  88.9%
43346
189 166
  87.8%
23166
28 25
  89.3%
325

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Table 6b
part of speech pairing — Mitt Romney
Word pairs (total and unique) categorized by part of speech (POS)
part of speech pairings - Mitt Romney
noun verb adjective adverb
noun
3,342 2,772
  82.9%
5702772
verb
3,616 3,099
  85.7%
5173099
944 798
  84.5%
146798
adjective
2,233 1,874
  83.9%
3591874
1,212 1,012
  83.5%
2001012
328 279
  85.1%
49279
adverb
603 533
  88.4%
70533
359 309
  86.1%
50309
213 191
  89.7%
22191
39 35
  89.7%
435

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Table 6c
unique part of speech pairing — candidate comparison
Unique word pairs categorized by part of speech (POS)
unique part of speech pairings
noun (n) verb (v) adjective (adj) adverb (adv)
noun
3,067 2,772
  90.4%
3067
2772
verb
3,750 3,099
  82.6%
3750
3099
966 798
  82.6%
966
798
adjective
1,955 1,874
  95.9%
1955
1874
1,102 1,012
  91.8%
1102
1012
330 279
  84.5%
330
279
adverb
609 533
  87.5%
609
533
346 309
  89.3%
346
309
166 191
  115.1%
166
191
25 35
  140.0%
25
35

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Table 6
commentary
Table 6 a,b
legend
a c
  d
3010

a :: total number of pairs, for a given category (e.g. verb/noun)

c :: number of unique pairs within set (a)

d :: (c) relative to (a)

bar :: proportion of (a-c):c

Table 6c
legend
a c
  d
50
45

a :: unique pairs for Barack Obama

c :: unique pairs for Mitt Romney

d :: (c) relative to (a) (i.e. Mitt Romney relative to Barack Obama)

bars :: (a) and (c)

Exclusive and Shared Usage

This section enumerates words that were exclusive to a candidate (e.g. used by one candidate but not the other). This content provides insight into what the candidates' priorities are and reveals differences in perspective on similar topics.

For a given part of speech, the table breaks down the number of words that were spoken by only one of the candidates or both candidates (intersection). The last row includes words spoken by either candidate (union).

Table 7
exclusive word usage
Total and unique words used exclusively by a candidate, or by both.
part of speech
n+v+adj+adv nouns (n) verbs (v) adjectives (adj) adverbs (adv)
Barack Obama
928 616
100.0% 66.4%
14.9% 37.2%
312616
1373188319042126725
455 318
49.0% 69.9%
14.9% 35.3%
137318
137318
273 190
29.4% 69.6%
15.7% 34.7%
83190
83190
168 126
18.1% 75.0%
14.7% 29.5%
42126
42126
32 25
3.4% 78.1%
10.7% 29.8%
725
725
Mitt Romney
925 555
100.0% 60.0%
14.8% 33.5%
370555
13628292157721391829
418 282
45.2% 67.5%
13.7% 31.3%
136282
136282
249 157
26.9% 63.1%
14.3% 28.6%
92157
92157
211 139
22.8% 65.9%
18.4% 32.6%
72139
72139
47 29
5.1% 61.7%
15.7% 34.5%
1829
1829
both candidates
4,392 484
100.0% 11.0%
70.3% 29.2%
3908484
183924810021435699018625
2,087 248
47.5% 11.9%
68.3% 27.5%
1839248
1839248
1,145 143
26.1% 12.5%
65.7% 26.1%
1002143
1002143
659 90
15.0% 13.7%
57.5% 21.1%
56990
56990
211 25
4.8% 11.8%
70.3% 29.8%
18625
18625
total
6,245 1,655
100.0% 26.5%
100.0% 100.0%
45901655
2155901119554871942721684
3,056 901
48.9% 29.5%
100.0% 100.0%
2155901
2155901
1,743 548
27.9% 31.4%
100.0% 100.0%
1195548
1195548
1,146 427
18.4% 37.3%
100.0% 100.0%
719427
719427
300 84
4.8% 28.0%
100.0% 100.0%
21684
21684

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Table 7
commentary
Table 7c
legend
a d
b e
c f
4030
40302015105

a :: total number of words in set (e.g. obama \ romney, obama ∩ romney, obama ∪ romney , for a given part of speech

b :: (a) relative to all exclusive words in n+v+adj+adv

c :: (a) relative to all words in n+v+adj+adv

d :: unique words in (a)

e :: (d) relative to (a)

f :: (d) relative to all unique words in n+v+adj+adv

bar1 :: normalized ratio of (a-d):d

bar2 :: absolute ratio of (a-d):d for all POS groups (first column) or POS group (other columns)

Noun Phrase Usage

Noun phrases were extracted from the text and analyzed for frequency, word count, unique word count and richness. Single-word phrases were not counted.

Top-level noun phrases are those without a parent noun phrase (a parent phrase is one that a similar, longer phrase). Derived noun phrases are those with a parent (more details about noun phrase analysis).

The top-level noun phrases can be interpreted as independent concepts. Derived noun phrases can be interpreted as variants on concepts embodied by the top-level phrases.

Noun Phrase Count and length

This table reports the absolute number of noun phrases, which is related to the number of nouns, and their length.

Table 8a
noun phrase count
Counts of noun phrases in words and per noun.
speaker noun phrase count
all top-level
Barack Obama
529 240
100.0% 45.4%
0.35 0.41
289240
433 234
81.9% 54.0%
0.29 0.40
199234
Mitt Romney
549 241
100.0% 43.9%
0.35 0.43
308241
439 231
80.0% 52.6%
0.28 0.41
208231

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Table 8b
noun phrase length
Average and 50%/90% cumulative length of noun phrases, in words.
speaker noun phrase length
all top-level
Barack Obama
2.31 2 3
2.3122.0003.000
2.36 2 4
2.3602.0004.000
Mitt Romney
2.29 2 3
2.2952.0003.000
2.35 2 4
2.3462.0004.000

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Table 8
commentary
Table 8a
legend
a d
b e
c f
1070

a :: number of noun phrases

b :: (a) relative to number of all noun phrases

c :: number of noun phrases per noun

d :: number of unique phrases

e :: (c) relative to (a)

f :: number of unique noun phrases per unique noun

bar :: normalized ratio of (a-c):c

Table 8b
legend
a b c
102080

a :: average noun phrase size, in words

b :: largest noun phrase size in 50% of content

c :: largest noun phrase size in 90% of content

bar :: proportion of a:b:c


Exclusive and Shared Noun Phrase Count and length

Table 9a
exclusive and shared noun phrase count
Counts of exclusive and shared noun phrases in words and per noun.
speaker noun phrase count
all top-level
Barack Obama
448 225
41.6% 50.2%
223225
399 226
89.1% 56.6%
173226
Mitt Romney
458 231
42.5% 50.4%
227231
399 224
87.1% 56.1%
175224
both candidates
172 31
16.0% 18.0%
14131
74 18
43.0% 24.3%
5618

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Table 9b
exclusive and shared noun phrase length
Average and 50%/90% cumulative length of noun phrases, in words.
speaker noun phrase length
all top-level
Barack Obama
2.35 2 4
2.3552.0004.000
2.38 2 4
2.3762.0004.000
Mitt Romney
2.34 2 4
2.3382.0004.000
2.36 2 4
2.3632.0004.000
both candidates
2.08 2 3
2.0762.0003.000
2.18 2 3
2.1762.0003.000

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Table 9
commentary
Table 9a
legend
a c
b d
1070

a :: number of noun phrases

b :: (a) relative to number of all noun phrases

c :: number of unique phrases

d :: (c) relative to (a)

bar :: normalized ratio of (a-c):c

Table 9b
legend
a b c
102080

a :: average noun phrase size, in words

b :: largest noun phrase size in 50% of content

c :: largest noun phrase size in 90% of content

bar :: proportion of a:b:c


Windbag Index

The Windbag Index is a compound measure that characterizes the complexity of speech. A low index is indicative of succinct speech with low degree of repetition and large number of independent concepts.

Table 10
windbag index
Windbag Index for each speaker. The higher the value, the more repetitive the speech.
speaker Windbag Index
index value index terms
Barack Obama
581
-22.9%
581.513935607238
0.441 0.347 0.392 0.418 0.455 0.340 0.454 0.975
+0.6% +12.7% +8.9% +11.4% +1.8% -11.8% +3.4% +1.7%
0.4411222339304530.3469692445506120.3923541247484910.4181184668989550.4551971326164870.3401360544217690.4536862003780720.975
Mitt Romney
754
+29.7%
754.244417821097
0.439 0.308 0.360 0.375 0.447 0.386 0.439 0.959
-0.6% -11.2% -8.1% -10.2% -1.7% +13.4% -3.2% -1.7%
0.4386008434631610.3079751131221720.360383386581470.3752834467120180.4472789115646260.385620915032680.4389799635701280.95850622406639
Table 10
commentary
Table 10
legend
The Windbag Index is 1/(t1*t2*...*t9) where t1,t2,...,t8 are

t1 :: fraction of words which are non-stop

t2 :: fraction of non-stop words which are unique

t3 :: fraction of nouns which are unique

t4 :: fraction of verbs which are unique

t5 :: fraction of adjectives which are unique

t6 :: fraction of adverbs which are unique

t7 :: fraction of noun phrases which are unique

t8 :: fraction of noun phrases which are top-level


Large individual terms t1...t9 contribute to a smaller index.

The percentage values below the index and each term are relative differences to the other speaker's corresponding term (i.e. 100*(a-b)/b where a is the value for one speaker and b for the other).

Word Clouds

In the word clouds below, the size of the word is proportional to the number of times it was used by a candidate (method details).

Not all words from a group used to draw the cloud fit in the image — less frequently used words for large word groups may fall outside the image.

All Words for Each Candidate

Each candidate's debate portion was extracted and frequencies were compiled for each part of speech (noun, verb, adjective, adverb), with words colored by their part of speech category.

The distribution of sizes within a tag cloud follows the frequency distribution of words. However, word size cannot be compared between clouds, since the minimum and maximum size of the words is fixed.

Debate Word Cloud for Barack Obama - all words

Debate tag cloud for Barack Obama

Debate Word Cloud for Mitt Romney - all words

Debate tag cloud for Mitt Romney
commentary

Exclusive Words for Each Candidate

The clouds below show words used exlusively by a candidate. For example, if candidate A used the word "invest" (any number of times), but candidate B did not, then the word will appear in the exclusive word tag cloud for candidate A.

Words exclusive to Barack Obama

Debate tag cloud for Barack Obama

Words exclusive to Mitt Romney

Debate tag cloud for Mitt Romney
commentary

Part of Speech Word Clouds

In these clouds, words from each major part of speech were colored based on whether they were exclusive to a candidate or shared by the candidates.

The size of the word is relative to the frequency for the candidate — word sizes between candidates should not be used to indicate difference in absolute frequency.

Cloud of noun words, by speaker

commentary

Cloud of verb words, by speaker

commentary

Cloud of adjective words, by speaker

commentary

Cloud of adverb words, by speaker

commentary

Cloud of all words, by speaker

commentary

Word Pair Clouds for Each Candidate

word pairs for Barack Obama

^ adjective/adjective by Barack Obama
^ adjective/adverb by Barack Obama
^ adjective/noun by Barack Obama
^ adjective/verb by Barack Obama
^ adverb/adverb by Barack Obama
^ adverb/noun by Barack Obama
^ adverb/verb by Barack Obama
^ noun/noun by Barack Obama
^ noun/verb by Barack Obama
^ verb/verb by Barack Obama

word pairs for Mitt Romney

^ adjective/adjective by Mitt Romney
^ adjective/adverb by Mitt Romney
^ adjective/noun by Mitt Romney
^ adjective/verb by Mitt Romney
^ adverb/adverb by Mitt Romney
^ adverb/noun by Mitt Romney
^ adverb/verb by Mitt Romney
^ noun/noun by Mitt Romney
^ noun/verb by Mitt Romney
^ verb/verb by Mitt Romney
commentary

Downloads

Debate transcript

Parsed word lists (word lists, part of speech lists, noun phrases, sentences)

Word clouds

Raw data structure

Please see the methods section for details about these files.