Talking Economic Policy

This project is in partnership with IPR associate <<Annette D’Onofrio>>, a sociolinguist.

How do political elites talk about the economy and what do they say?

How do political elites sway us? How do candidates convince us to support their economic plans?  This project explores the method and manner through which candidates and political leaders have discussed economic policy over the last 100 years.

Specifically, we ask three big questions: What do politicians say? How do they say it? And how does their audience influence these linguistic choices? Focusing on economic policy discussions from 1920 to the present, we present work examining the word choice, rhetoric, and arguments of U.S. presidential candidates and office holders.

Using phonetic analysis of linguistic styles, we also examine a subset of presidential candidates, analyzing how politicians use socially meaningful features of speech in response to their audiences, and to convey particular political personae when talking about the economy.

This work in progress combines machine learning, text analysis, and sociolinguistic methods to explore what politicians’ speech can tell us about how Americans see and understand the economy, and how politicians’ draw upon language to convey tailored political personae to the public.

There is often a vast economic divide between those elites and their voters, yet we argue that political rhetoric isn’t speech, it is a conversation that takes place between voters and politicians.

We examine this conversation. Thanks to an IPR seed grant, they will analyze all presidential and presidential candidate speech over the last century.  As an example, although the number of coal industry employees is very small – about 60,000 workers nation-wide – politicians mention the industry frequently when discussing economic policy.  Another example is the choice of “we” when discussing tax cuts, but “they” when referring to those on welfare.  We also examine phonic analysis, examining how candidates form words and the dialects they use.


misc: Shortest Research Paper in History

All academics should strive for brevity as well as comprehensibility.  The shortest academic paper in history was written by Dennis Upper in 1974. Upper, like many academics, suffered from writers block. Upper decided to apply the scientific method to the issue of writer’s block to see if he could treat […]


video: How We Say It…

What we say conveys information, but so does how we say it.  Phonetic features (how speech is formed and pronounced) play into what we hear, how we understand, and what we think of the speaker.