Visualizing Mitt Romney’s Change In Strategy

In addition to the previously mentioned Kindle Touch, my mother also Christmas gifted me a copy of Nathan Yau’s Visualize This , which I am slowly using to improve my data management and visualization skills. Occasionally, you can expect to see the results of my crude experiments as I practice with different tools and methods.

Today is one of those days.

In the chapter on “Choosing Tools To Visualize Data,” Yau discusses a number of different software packages that can be utilized for visualization, each of which have different features, pros, and cons. One of the more interesting free packages he covers is IBM’s Many Eyes. According Yau, Many Eyes began as an experiment in crowdanalyzing large data sets, though such social data analysis never really caught on.

One of the Many Eyes tools that Yau highlights in the book is a word tree, which “lets you pick a word or phrase and shows you all the different contexts in which the word or phrase appears.” This seemed to me like a tool with decent potential for analyzing political rhetoric. So, I gave it a shot.

To begin, I had to find some interesting text. After considering a few other options, I decided to compare how Mitt Romney has altered his message since his first run for the GOP nomination in 2008. To do this, I first created word clouds of his 2008 and 2010 CPAC speeches.

2008:

Word Cloud of Mitt Romney's 2008 CPAC Speech (Color) Many Eyes

2010:

Word Cloud of Mitt Romney's 2010 CPAC Speech (Color) Many Eyes

In order to make a word tree from an unstructured text, you must first choose a word or phrase to to be the trunk from which the branches extend. In both of Romney’s speeches, “America” was the largest word in the word cloud, so I considered using it as the root for the word tree. But he ended up using the word in pretty much the same manner in both speeches.

I wanted to demonstrate a change in Romney’s rhetoric, meaning I had to find another word. This is when I noticed that the word “culture” was large in the 2008 word cloud, but non-existent in the 2010 word cloud.

2008:

Romney CPAC 2008 Culture Word Tree Many Eyes

2010:

Romney CPAC 2010 Culture Word Tree Many Eyes

Now, this isn’t exactly news. It’s well known that this time around Romney and his braintrust have abandoned the focus they placed on social conservatives in 2008. But it does nicely and simply illustrate how much of a shift Romney has made. In 2008, Romney mentioned “culture” 11 times at CPAC, declaring that “culture makes all the difference.” In 2010, no mention at all.

Apparently, in the intervening years, Romney decided that culture didn’t make as much of a difference.

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