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“We” & “I”: The 2nd Presidential Debate

17 October 2012

17 Oct 2012

Expert System, the semantic technology company, today released the results of its semantic and linguistic analysis of the language of the two candidates in the second presidential debate held on October 16. Findings of the results are based on analysis of the debate transcripts and highlight the semantic differences in the candidates’ language, despite the linguistic similarities.

Analysis Hightlights

A quantitative linguistic analysis shows a greater similarity between the two candidates: Both use more or less the same number of sentences (President Obama with 496 sentences made up of 1,398 prepositions; Governor Romney with 1,406 prepositions spread over 554 sentences), and the same lexical structure in terms of style and word choice (80% of the words used by both candidates are classified as usual or common language). In the first debate, President Obama used longer sentences and a more complex sentence construction.

Looking deeper using semantic text analysis and automatic extraction of concepts and entities (such as names of people, places or things), a different picture emerges. The word “Romney” stands in first place among the most important terms spoken by President Obama, a fact that, along with a slightly greater use of action verbs and the presence of the personal pronoun “we” (+28% compared to Romney who showed a preference for the first person singular “I”) seem to indicate a more confident and combative incumbent against the challenger.

The main categories of topics for both candidates’ speech were economics, politics, business and finance, where Governor Romney also cited work, law and welfare. The candidates did not show a difference in their use of verbs. However, it is interesting to note that this time, President Obama used “can” more often than “would” (“would” was the most used verb by President Obama in the first debate).