Politilines shows what candidates talk about during debates

Nov 11, 2011

If you don’t watch the candidate debates — and let’s face it, that’s just about everyone — you pretty much miss everything, except for stuff like Rick Perry forgetting agency names. Politilines, by Periscopic, lets you see what the candidates talked about each night.

The left column lists top issues, the middle shows words used, and the right column shows candidates. Roll over any word or name to see who talked about what or what was talked about by whom.

The method:

We collected transcripts from the American Presidency Project at UCSB, categorized them by hand, then ranked lemmatized word-phrases (or n-grams) by their frequency of use. Word-phrases can be made of up to five words. Our ranking agorithm accounts for things such as exclusive word-phrases – meaning, it won’t count “United States” twice if it’s used in a higher n-gram such as “President of the United States.”

While still in beta, the mini-app is responsive and easy to use. The next challenge, I think, is to really show what everyone talked about. For example, click on education and you see Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Rick Perry brought those up. Then roll over the names to see the words each candidate used related to that topic. You get some sense of content, but it’s still hard to decipher what each actually said about education.



  • Thanks for posting about Politiliines Nathan. We’re currently working on the release version, and will be incorporating more context. In future releases we hope to add context for the frequency of the words spoken by each candidate, an analysis of the word’s intent, the ability to remove candidates or words, and a way to explore the most common words and issues in all of the debates.

    More on the process here: http://now.periscopic.com/2011/11/introducing-politilines-com/

  • I tend to agree that this needs another level of drill down to answer “what are they *saying*” rather than “what are they talking about”. After tinkering for a while I came to the conclusion : everybody talks about everything without saying anything. Initially disappointed, I realized that that’s pretty close to the truth!


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