news: Pursuing new viewpoints in the study of inequality


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How do political elites speak to people about political and economic policy? There is often a vast economic divide between those elites and their voters, yet Redbird argues that a “conversation” takes place between them nonetheless.

Her newest research project thoroughly examines this conversation, in partnership with IPR associate Annette D’Onofrio, a sociolinguist. Thanks to an IPR seed grant, they will analyze all presidential candidates’ speeches from 2008 onward.

Redbird will look at the speeches’ argumentation and rhetoric. As an example, she notes that, although the number of coal industry employees is very small—about 60,000 workers nationwide—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. D’Onofrio will undertake a phonic analysis, examining how candidates form words and the dialects they use.

The two researchers will then pair their analyses with responses to the speeches, such as tweets and public opinion polls, to understand the “conversation” between political elites and their audiences.

Redbird singled out IPR’s intellectual diversity for bringing her new viewpoints that push her work in challenging directions.

“Inequality is a multidimensional, multifaceted, and complex problem,” Redbird said. “These people think of things I would never have thought of!”