Drew Stephens

Word Frequency in the Vice Presidential Debate

It’s always interesting to see what keywords debaters drop to get their points across. To analyze tonight’s debate between Biden & Palin, I grabbed a transcript from CNN that was posted shortly after. The transcript listed each speaker’s name (Biden, Ifill or Palin), followed by their first sentence in that statement, with subsequent statements on new lines. To make it easily grepable, wrote a quick Perl script to join each speaker’s full passages into a single line, beginning with their name. With that done, it’s trivial to search for words the candidates spoke. The transcript is here.

First up, “change” and “hope”, adages of the Obama campaign that McCain and Palin have picked up in recent weeks:
* Biden (change|hope): 17
* Palin (change|hope): 25

Which presidential candidate got more mentions?
* Biden (John|McCain): 72
* Biden (Barack|Obama): 45
* Palin (John|McCain): 42
* Palin (Barack|Obama): 24

Palin’s state makes a lot of energy and high prices are on the mind of voters:
* Biden (energy): 9
* Palin (energy): 29

Both talked a lot about the war:
* Biden (war|iraq|afghanistan): 51
* Palin (war|iraq|afghanistan): 58

Palin cares about her family:
* Biden (family|child): 8
* Palin (family|child): 15

Biden said “clean coal” a couple of times to Palin’s one; they both mentioned “coal” in general more than that:
* Biden (coal): 7
* Palin (coal): 2

The economy was a talking point:
* Biden (economy): 4
* Palin (economy): 13

Only one of the candidates knows about deregulation of Wall Street in recent years:
* Biden (deregulation): 7
* Palin (deregulation): 0

Wall Street or Main Street?
* Biden (wall street): 3
* Biden (main street): 1
* Palin (wall street): 5
* Palin (main street): 2

Any suggestions?

See also:

edit: added link from Karl; added IBM links