Thursday, 2 February 2006

Measuring Political Spin

Thursday, 2nd February, 2006
Measuring political spin is the latest tool for followers of politics. Professor David Skillicorn of Canada's Queens University used a new computer algorithm to study speeches during the country's recent election campaign. Prof Skillicorn found that defeated Prime Minister Paul Martin, of the Liberal Party, spun the subject matter of his speeches dramatically more than Conservative Party leader, Stephen Harper, and the New Democratic Party leader, Jack Layton.
According to a report on the New Scientists website, "spin", in this case, is defined as “text or speech where the apparent meaning is not the true belief of the person saying or writing it”. Prof Skillington and his team analysed the usage patterns of 88 deception-linked words within the text of recent campaign speeches from the political leaders. They then determined the frequency of these patterns in each speech, and averaged that number over all of that candidate’s speeches. Martin received a ranking of 124, while Harper and Layton scored 73 and 88, respectively.
“I think it’s expected that any party in power is going to use spin more than the challenging party,” Skillicorn says. “They have a track record to defend.”
The Canadian analysis was based on a psychological model constructed by James Pennebaker at the University of Texas, Austin, US. 
James W. Pennebaker of the University of Texas developed the psychological model which uncovers patterns linked to deception, such as the decreased use of personal pronouns – such as I, we, me, us – and exception words, such as “however” and “unless".
If the subject interest you there is a readable paper at his website. 
It analyses the media interviews of John Kerry and John Edwards in the 2004 Democrat campaign and compares them with Al Gore in 2000.