What we learned about the speech of Oakland’s 2014 mayoral candidates
Analyzing political rhetoric using Pop Up Archive, Voyant, and Wordle
In the old days, transcribing and analyzing the speeches of 15 political candidates would have required the efforts of an entire newsroom. We decided to leverage technology to do the grunt work for us.
Over the past weeks, KALW’s Crosscurrents team has interviewed all 15 mayoral candidates for Oakland’s November 4 election. We generated Pop Up Archive premium machine transcripts for all of them, then ran the resulting text directly into corpus analysis tools Wordle and Voyant Tools to see the top trends emerge before our eyes.
While these interviews represent only a tiny portion of each candidate’s platform, the data offer insights into the words used by individual candidates, and in the campaign as a whole.
It’s a close rase: a SurveyUSA poll released by KPIX on October 22 showed five candidates in double digits ahead of the ranked choice vote: Rebecca Kaplan (19%), Libby Schaaf (17%), Jean Quan (15%), Joe Tuman (15%), and Bryan Parker (10%).
We took three edited Crosscurrents interviews of similar length for three of the leading candidates (Quan, Parker, and Kaplan) and compared the results:
Jean Quan: The Incumbent Mayor
In this interview, some of incumbent Mayor Jean Quan’s most frequently used words, as analyzed by Voyant, were “know” (used seven times), “years,” (four times), and “scholarship” (three times).
Bryan Parker: Bitcoin and Big Business
Bryan Parker, with a background as a corporate executive, is branding himself as “the businessman” of the mayoral campaign. One of his most notable talking points is his strategy to rejuvenate impoverished areas of Oakland with the Bitcoin cryptocurrency. Sure enough, one of the keywords seen in his Wordle is “bitcoin.” Other frequently used words include “housing” (used six times), “jobs” (four times), and “diversity” (three times).
Rebecca Kaplan: Frontrunner
Follow us on Facebook and Twitter as we release more findings in the days leading up to November 4. Until then, you can peruse the full analysis of all candidates in Voyant Tools, or listen to all the candidate interviews in Pop Up Archive.
Don’t live in Oakland? Let us know about the next election you’d like us to track. We’re up to the task.
Top: A ‘Wordle" analysis of the Pop Up Archive transcript for KALW Crosscurrents’ Oakland Mayoral Special