Political Rhetoric

A rhetoric student during an election is much like a kid at Christmastime. Everything’s for me! Look at all the shiny things!  Fun, fun, fun!

Fortunately for me, other people share my geeked-out excitement about words. I thought I would share some favorites here.

Pew Research Center – Obama, Romney, Biden, and Ryan in a word

Paul Ryan in One Word

Researchers at Pew asked 1,008 people to describe each candidate in one word. It appears that no words were provided – they simply asked the respondent to pick one word. I find this fascinating largely because of the responses for Paul Ryan. If you look at the responses for Obama and Romney, for example, the one-word descriptions are rather predictable based on what we’ve heard from each campaign, from MSNBC, and from FOX, and they also have pretty much the same number of words. But then you get to Ryan – and the number of words explode! My personal thought is that this is because the pundits haven’t had an opportunity to shape public opinion on him quite yet. They’ve had years to tell their stories about Romney and Obama…but Ryan?  Still a slight unknown. Several people do give similar word choices – such as “fake” and “phony” or “capable” and “competent” – but not yet the “line” we are supposed to take from the people who try to shape public opinion.

Convention Word Counts
Someone even geekier than me decided to count the number of times per 25,000 words that certain words were used at the DNC and the RNC conventions. This is a fascinating look at the emphases each party placed on certain issues, and the angles they took on them. Check it out, and be sure to read the snippets they list below the words to see how they were used in context. (For example, Democrats used the word “woman/women” more often than the Republicans, and most often by itself, whereas Republicans tended to use it in the phrase “men and women.” I find this interesting, though I’m still pondering the implications of those uses.)

War of Words
Brian Williams and Ted Koppel did a great report about the negative impact of vitriolic words used predominantly by polarizing “news” stations (I use the word “news” loosely here to refer to MSNBC and FOX). It’s a great watch, if you have the time.

So…what do YOU think?  Any thoughts on the war of words, the use of words, and the creation of “truth” in this election season?

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