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Radio in Progress: Political Word Watch


For an upcoming Freakonomics Radio episode, we’ve been doing some research on media bias. We came across this paper by Northwestern researchers, part of a growing body of work that uses computational analysis to turn political speech into data. Simply by examining speech patterns, the researchers were able to predict the political affiliation of U.S. Senators with 94% accuracy.
They broke down the nouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs most common to each party. For instance: liberals use the adjective “gay” while conservatives favor “homosexual.” Adverbs preferred by liberals include “disproportionately,” “ecologically” and “indiscriminately”; conservatives favor “morally,” “objectively” and “constitutionally.” Overall, the authors observe that:

“….key issues discussed by liberals are energy and the environment (or alternative energy), corporate interests and lobbying, health care, inequality and education. For conservatives, the key issues discussed are taxation, abortion, stem cell research, family values, defense, and (to a lesser extent) government administration.”

Here’s a sample of some more keywords/phrases with high variance between the parties: